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Dr. Alvarez: Schools Fared Well; Considering Changes to School Calendar

A letter from Rye City Schools superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez.

November 9, 2012

Dear Parents, Staff and Community Members,

 The last two weeks have been a challenge-first Hurricane Sandy and then the nor'easter. I hope that you and your families are managing well. A number of families in Rye are still without power. If there is anything we can do to assist, please let us know. Our Caring Committees are ready and willing to help. Rye High School has remained open evenings until 7:30 pm, offering students a warm and lighted haven with snacks. In the midst of this difficult time, the sense of community is encouraging. Certainly, the culture of caring is alive and well.

School Facilities

As you all know we were able to open RHS, RMS, Rye School of Leadership, and Midland on Monday. Unfortunately, Milton and Osborn did not regain full power until late Tuesday. I want to assure you that throughout it all, we remained vigilant. The administrative team, Board of Education and staff members worked diligently during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to return our schools to a sense of normalcy. Our staff worked around the clock, Board members spent hours advocating at the City of Rye's Emergency Operations Center, and numerous calls were placed to Con Ed, legislators, agencies and the Governor's Office. The Rye City Manager, the Police Department and Con Ed worked hand in hand with us. A special thanks to Mr. Steven Otis, Chief of Staff for Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and newly-elected Assemblyman, who helped expedite the acquisition of replacement utility poles for Osborn School.

 Other than power issues, our schools fared well. There were several fallen trees and large limbs down throughout the district, some missing roof shingles, a damaged entrance ceiling and a broken window. These were relatively minor considering the devastation throughout the region. 

We are currently working with City officials to expedite the clearing of sidewalks to allow safe passage for students to walk to and from school.  

 Communication Efforts

Communication in an emergency is always a major concern. Lack of electrical power made consistent and up-to-date notifications difficult. The Central Administration Building, like the schools, was without power and staff members, working remotely, were struggling with the same issues at home. When possible, we called on the telephone, posted announcements on the web site, sent messages via the listserv, notified radio stations, and used Twitter occasionally. Unfortunately, consistent notifications did not reach everyone.   

I will debrief with staff and parent organization leaders to improve our efforts in this area, although many of the communication issues were beyond our control. 

School Calendar

The school calendar is of concern to us all. Three emergency closing days are built into the 2012-13 school calendar. We have used five already and two others at two schools. Legislation has been introduced in Albany to allow a waiver of the 180 day school year requirement in light of the prolonged State of Emergency. The New York State School Boards Association and the New York State Council of School Superintendents are advocating for us, as this matter affects school districts throughout the state. Locally, we are making calls and working closely with the aforementioned organizations.  

I will provide you with an update on this matter within two weeks. However, please note that it is only November. It is early in the year and we will have to see what weather the winter months bring. There are also some legal constraints in New York about how we can add days to the school calendar. Please be patient. I am equally frustrated.

Student/Staff Attendance

I am proud to say that our schools have opened this week with an average attendance rate of approximately 96% for both students and staff.   Students returned eager to learn and with plenty of stories. Staff members have been the utmost professionals, exhibiting resourcefulness and flexibility. I think we were all delighted to get back to school and to resume our lives.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during these trying times. We are grateful that there was no loss of lives or extensive property damage in our community.

Sincerely,

Frank Alvarez

Superintendent                    

 

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