Superintendent updates school community on facilities, school schedules and more
On Aug. 28, the Syosset Central School District Board of Education met at South Woods Middle School before the first day of classes on Sept. 5.
“I offer everybody a welcome back to what will be a new school year, starting tomorrow for our staff and starting next week for our young people,” said Dr. Thomas Rogers, the Superintendent of Schools. “We had the opportunity this morning to welcome freshmen to high school and sixthgraders here to South Woods. I got to greet a lot of the students as they were coming back on campus and they were so excited. Our seniors were here to pick up their parking passes and sign the senior sign that is done every year. The excitement of the school year beginning is upon us. I hope everyone had a wonderful summer and got a chance to rest and recharge because I’m sure we’re going to have an awesome school year ahead.”
Dr. Rogers had a few topics to discuss that evening, starting with a change in school day rotations for elementary school students. Dr. Rogers said parents have already been notified about the changes.
“We’ll be moving to, what a lot of school districts do, to a six-day rotation,” Dr. Rogers said. “This has a number of benefits. When we have federal holidays, they inevitably fall on Mondays, and so that means if you don’t do a rotation, whatever class falls on Monday takes the brunt of closures. It will also give us better structured time for specials. It will give us more time for interventions with students, therapies that they may need. School-wide enrichment that they’ll be able to take advantage of. It frees up more time for English language learning, not just for English language learners, but also for all students who are studying the English language. It also gives us a little more efficiency in staffing, particularly as some of our staff are shared between the elementary schools and some of the middle schools. Having them on a similar rotation makes it easier to do some of the scheduling and planning.”
It will also give the district’s social workers time to work with students. Dr. Rogers said the websites will update parents and students on what day in the rotation the schools are on.
In other news, Dr. Rogers said he and the board were relieved that the Town of Oyster Bay Town Board did not move forward with development on 80 Jericho Turnpike, citing concerns over increased traffic.
“We’re encouraged that the town took some of our feedback into consideration as they made that decision and we appreciate that,” Dr. Rogers said.
When New York State gave all school district’s flexibility to adjust the length of school days below state minimums in order to deal with the pandemic, the Syosset Central School District shortened the high school day by one minute a period, a total of nine minutes a day, in order to improve traffic flow between the South Woods and high school dismissals.
“That flexibility has ended, hopefully with the pandemic,” Dr. Rogers said. “We’ll be returning to our pre-pandemic schedule. And, I do anticipate that although we were able to do this smoothly before the pandemic, we recognize that traffic patterns have shifted since. I do think that the first several weeks of this new schedule will be a work in progress. So I ask for the patience of our staff and families as we make this transition and hopefully find ways to do it smoothly as possible.”
Shifting to another topic, Dr. Rogers discussed how a student-led initiative to have kosher, vegan and halal meals led to a pilot program at the high school.
“It was fun for us to try and make this possible for them,” Dr. Rogers said. “We did notice, however, that as the school year wore on, the utilization of those programs dropped off precipitously and by the end of the year, students weren’t taking advantage of them at all, so we are going to re-engage with our students at the beginning of the year and ask if we need to find more appealing options or if there are some ways we can deliver that to meet their dietary needs, but is more scalable for our food service folks. We’ll be meeting with students early in the year.”
Dr. Rogers also followed up on a state requirement that mandates the district to offer transitional bilingual education because of the high population of Mandarin-speaking students in first and second grade.
“There was not a lot of interest among the parents in having a separate setting for those students to learn, and as a result we did not have enough interest to be able to keep the program so we notified the state that we would not have the program, but we are putting in place instead other options to support the young people’s heritage language, so that the heritage language is not extinguished as they learn the English here” Dr. Rogers said. “We’ll meet the needs, but in a different way.”
Shortly before the Board of Education meeting, there was a glitch with the provider that maintains student management systems, making rosters available.
“I know that it would be appealing to learn what the class rosters are going to be sooner than a little bit later in the week,” Dr. Rogers said, asking that students and families remain patient until the rosters were released the following Wednesday, because the rosters available were only drafts.
Dr. Rogers also announced multiple upgrades to the district’s facilities made over the summer.
“One of the things we’ve been working hard at is doing some ventilation upgrades for a pool facility,” Dr. Rogers said. “That project is on the one yard line. I see all the equipment is in place and it’s just waiting on assembly. We had done a lot of work on the old tennis courts several years ago to resurface them to try to extend their life for a couple of years. But the challenge with those courts became such that there’s no resurfacing them any longer. So we’ve completely refurbished them and they were out there today striping and putting out the nets, and I anticipate we’ll be on those shortly.”
Dr. Rogers added that he took a tour of the South Woods library that was refurbished over the year by the district staff, who he said did a “remarkable job.”
“In each of the middle school gyms, we removed the hard folding partitions that are motorized and replaced those with curtains,” Dr. Rogers said. “Obviously the motorized partitions have the potential to be dangerous so we have eliminated them in both schools.”
Following the superintendent’s report, there was a presentation on the pros and cons of having two high schools. The Syosset Jericho Tribune will follow up on this story in the Sept. 13 edition.