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A Message from Dr. James

March 19, 2020
Dear Community Members,
I know these last days have been both challenging in some ways and “bonding” in other ways of families out taking walks together, playing board games, and more.

Moving forward I need to share some additional information with you. First, for now, Commack Schools are scheduled to remain closed until March 31 per the State’s current order. That is a change from the original March 27 date. For now we are scheduled to reopen on April 1. However, given the ever changing nature of this situation, parents should know and be prepared that schools may be closed beyond March 31.

With that in mind, we are planning for continued learning experiences for children and will post lessons each of the next two weeks on Sunday evenings. Beyond that, should it be necessary, we will have a well-developed remote e-learning platform in place for children that will be developed and facilitated by teachers complete with teacher/student engagement mechanisms. Please be patient! We will do this right so that you will suffer the least frustration.

On another note, please be aware that our facilities are closed – including our fields. Moving forward there will be no access allowed to our High School athletic complex or other fields. I understand this is challenging as children want to be outside, but we must insist.

For more information on other matters such as childcare for health care professionals and first responders, which is required by the State, changes to the calendar moving forward, and a possible breakfast program, please see the website.

Thank you and remember to have your children wash their hands!

Sincerely,
Dr. Donald James
Superintendent

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March 16, 2020
An Important Message from Dr. James
First, let me commend you for what I witnessed this weekend.  I witnessed children playing outside (this is fine under coronavirus guidelines), I witnessed people being kind to each other at North Shore Farms, and I know parents were and are at home playing and working with their children because schools and activities have been cancelled – I am very proud of the Commack Community!


Moving forward, I need to inform you about our plans for the coming days and weeks, at least based on what we know right now.  As you are aware Commack announced we would be closed for the next two weeks utilizing our spring recess and snow days.  Subsequently the County ordered all schools closed for the same period of time.  To be clear, as a result of this closing, current regulations do not allow us to have the April recess that was originally on our calendar, as districts must and I quote, “exhaust any available snow days and vacation days” after closing as a result of COVID-19.  That said, we are waiting for guidance on whether or not this regulation might be changed.  However, we are operating under the rule of the current regulation and people should plan that schools will be open April 13 – 15 unless they hear directly from Commack schools.


Regarding learning materials for your children, know that we have worked on a set of materials for use at home this week and teams are working on grade and subject specific materials for next week.  These materials are not meant to replace classroom instruction, nor are they meant to be mastered as we recognize that without direct teacher instruction, these materials are designed to help maintain each student’s current level of knowledge and ability.


We also know that students may need their personal belongings, or medications.  Therefore, the secondary schools will open tomorrow, March 17, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. when students can gain access; and nurses will be available in the elementary and secondary schools for medication pick up during the same hours if you need your child’s medication (you do not have to pick up his/her medication if you don’t need it).  Know that this does not break any guidance from the CDC as there will be no congregation of students or adults allowed and the buildings have already been disinfected.


Finally, know that we are close to having a lunch system in place for free and reduced lunch participants that will go into effect as soon as March 18. More information will be sent to you tomorrow and posted on the District Website. We are in the process of making plans should we have to close for more than two weeks; and I know this is stressful.  Parents, try to keep a regular schedule for your children - regular waking time, school work time, outdoor play time, meal times and more. 


Please take this in the spirit in which it is intended. While many kids are home, school and events are cancelled, this may seem like a time to panic.  However, this might just be a gift of time to help us get some rest and some unexpected time to reconnect with our family.  Be well, remind your children to wash their hands and I will see you soon. 
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March 13, 2020

Dear Commack Community,

As you know, we have been working very closely with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Health Services and County and State officials to continually monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19). At this time, we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among any staff members or students in the Commack School District.

 

As has been acknowledged by the Governor, it is possible for people to act as carriers of COVID-19 without presenting any symptoms. Numerous colleges and universities have closed and many parents are reporting these students are returning home with illnesses. Diagnosed cases in New York State are rising. Therefore, the Commack School District has made a determination to close schools for a two-week period. Based on guidance from county, state, and federal offices, this time period of limited social contact may help deter the spread of COVID-19. 

In order to do so, we are moving the Spring Recess and will utilize other days available to us in the school calendar to close for the next two weeks beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. We are taking this action, in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Below is an explanation of changes to the school calendar:

All schools will be closed for a revised Spring Recess from
Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, March 27, 2020.

=         All school activities including athletics are canceled during this time period.

=         At this time, it is anticipated schools will reopen Monday, March 30. However, this will be revisited if necessary.

=         As a result of the above, please be aware that schools will be in session Monday, April 13 through Friday, April 17, as well as, Friday, May 22.

=         However, for now, schools will be closed Thursday, April 9 and Friday, April 10. If this changes, we will notify you accordingly.

In light of the fluid nature of the information we are receiving about Coronavirus, further adjustments may be necessary going forward and we will communicate them to you as soon as practical. 

We understand closing schools will affect families in many ways, and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Know that we do not make these decisions lightly. Please also know that staying at home, not engaging in social situations, as well as not visiting public places is the best way to protect you and your family from contracting Coronavirus. Please follow Department of Health guidelines on social-distancing and visiting public places.

Note: The Governor has waived the 180-day minimum requirement. However, Districts must utilize all available snow days and scheduled vacation time before they can access this waiver. Should this change, we will contact you accordingly.

 

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March 11, 2020

As you may have heard, a night custodian at one of the District’s rental buildings reportedly came into contact with someone that has COVID 19 - the custodian is NOT sick!  The tenant and custodian for the building immediately contacted the Department of Health who gave direction for the custodian to self-quarantine and for the building to be cleaned/disinfected. Once completed, the DOH indicated the building was safe to open. The custodian was NOT in any other district buildings.

At this time the District is in daily contact w the DOH regarding direction and guidance regarding how to proceed during this time and we follow any and all guidance given!  Be assured we are doing everything the DOH instructs to keep our schools clean and healthy.  

 

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March 9, 2020

Let’s start with, at this time, here in Commack Schools we have VERY few self-quarantined cases (2 staff members and 4 students) due to travel or contact with someone who has traveled to an affected country and NO cases of contact with someone that has the virus nor any reports of someone with the virus! 

As you are aware from previous communications, we are closely monitoring any and all communication and guidance from the Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and the State related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Below is a brief summary of items that build upon previously sent communication:

Travel and/or Contact with Those that Have Traveled:  During a conference call this morning with all Suffolk County Superintendents and County Health officials, current reporting protocols were reiterated, they are as follows:

  • Beginning March 4, 2020, any student or staff member having traveled to, or having come into contact with person(s) who have traveled to, currently impacted countries, such as China and Italy, must be reported to the Department of Health, self-quarantined, and may not attend school for fourteen (14) days. Parents and staff are asked to report any such travel or contact with travelers to the building principal or Department of Health immediately (Suffolk County DOH contact # (631) 854-0333).

Hygiene:  They further reiterated that maintaining healthy hygiene through regular hand washing and/or the use of hand sanitizers (Note), when soap and water are not available, and staying home when you are sick are critical to quelling the spread of any virus including COVID-19.

  • Note: As stated before, schools are not permitted (per NYS Education Department) to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in schools.  However, given the current concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the NYS Health Department has temporarily lifted this restriction.  Please consider this official notification that as of today, March 9, 2020, this ban is lifted until further notice.  Therefore, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is approved in our schools and teachers are asked to please supervise any students using alcohol based sanitizers. If, as a parent, you do not want your child to use alcohol-based sanitizer, please send in a note or e-mail to your child’s teacher as soon as possible.   Know that given the shortage of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, school supplies of such are very limited and parents can send containers in with their child(ren).

Cleaning/Sanitizing of School Facilities:  Our custodial staff has been doing an amazing job of assuring all classrooms, common areas, bathrooms and hallways are sanitized with hospital grade sanitizing solutions!  Further, they are following cleaning protocols in all of our buildings based on the direction of the departments of health and the CDC.

Field Trips:  At this time we are making decisions about field trips on a case by case basis.  If your child is in a class with a planned trip and you do not want them to attend, you may send in a note or e-mail stating such.

Please know that the health and safety of our staff and students remains our top priority.  However, we are aware that the constant bombardment of information and misinformation regarding COVID-19 can be extremely unnerving.  We appreciate all you are doing to lessen the impact of this situation on emotional health of your children and your understanding as we distribute information as it is received by local and state health department officials.

In closing, stay healthy, Commack!!  Wash those hands; use proper coughing and sneezing protocols and stay home if you are sick.

 

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March 5, 2020

This message is meant to lend some clarity to the ever changing information we receive as a district related to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  As mentioned in our previous message on this subject, District staff (Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Health, Director of Facilities, school nurses, etc.) have attended meetings/webinars facilitated by the Department of Health, Center for Disease Control, the SCPD and other related agencies to receive up to date information and guidance about COVID-19.  Further, staff have engaged in related training and conversations as we work to assure we are fully prepared in the event COVID-19 impacts the Commack community.  Below are several items for your information and guidance:

NEW Guidance from the Department of Health

  • Beginning March 4, 2020, any student or staff member having traveled to, or having come into contact with person(s) who have traveled to, currently impacted countries, such as China and Italy, must be reported to the Department of Health, self-quarantined, and may not attend school for fourteen (14) days.  Parents and staff are asked to report any such travel or contact with travelers to the building principal or Department of Health immediately (Suffolk County DOH contact # (631) 854-0333).
          o   Please keep in mind that districts and schools are bound by student and staff confidentiality laws and although we will report COVID-19 names
               and cases to the Department of Health, we will NEVER release names of the affected to the community.

Information Regarding Cleaning

  • Custodial supervisors have reviewed daily cleaning protocols with all custodial workers.  These protocols include, but are not limited to, daily cleaning of classroom desks, doorknobs and other surfaces with a product known as Oxivir Five, a hospital grade disinfectant.  
          o   Oxivir Five is a one-step disinfectant that kills microorganisms including MRSA, MRSE, Herpes Simplex 1 & 2, Influenza Type A2, Adenovirus, Rotavirus
                and many more AND we have been advised Oxivir Five also kills COVID-19.
  • In addition, we have contacted an industrial-grade cleaning agency in the event an all-inclusive, district-wide cleaning/disinfection becomes necessary. 

Information Regarding Healthy Habits

  • Students and staff are asked to wash their hands with soap and water regularly; custodial staff have assured each bathroom has a supply of soap and to check the dispensers several time per day; further we have multiple hand sanitizing stations in each school that custodians have assured are full and they will check regularly as well (we use non-alcohol-based in the elementary schools as the DOH considers alcohol-based sanitizers an over the counter drug).
  • We have asked teachers to allow students ample time to wash before and after meals; and
  • Staff will be reminding students of everyday preventative measures such as washing regularly, the use of tissues, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and staying home when they don’t feel well.

Planning

  •  In the event of an outbreak that causes a long term school closure of schools here in Commack, we will work with parents on the use of our teacher websites and/or Office 365 to engage students in the learning process.  Should the time come, we will share additional details regarding these plans via our web site, e-mail, text message and robo-call systems.  Please note that we have received guidance from IB, AP and SUPA regarding their programs and stand ready to support students in these high school courses should we need to close for an extended period of time.

It is important to note that we have been informed that there are no cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk County at this time.  Therefore, the risk to residents and students remains low. Thus, we have no plans to close school or cancel events. However, we continue to closely monitor communications from our local and state departments of health, as well as the CDC. We will be in touch with families and the community if the situation changes.

Not to be lost in this is protecting our children from the anxiety that comes from adults planning and discussing this matter, often in their company.  Please remember, particularly with younger children, that they are just that, young children. Thank you. 

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