Updates from the Superintendent

  • September 1, 2021

    Dear Carmel Parents & Students,

    Welcome to the 2021-22 school year! Tomorrow is an exciting day as we welcome our students back to our buildings to kick off an amazing year. I hope that you enjoyed your summer break and are entering the new year at Carmel Central School District refreshed and ready to learn!

    While we head into another year that is a bit different than a typical year, our incredible teachers and staff are committed to creating a wonderful, supportive, safe and fun learning environment for all students.

    As a reminder, tomorrow, September 2, is a full day of school for our students in grades 1-12, and a modified school day for our incoming kindergarteners with an orientation and bus run. Detailed information for our incoming kindergarteners was emailed directly from the elementary schools’ principals.

    Fall 2021 Reopening Plans
    final plan document outlining the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee’s decisions for our reopening is available on the Carmel Central School District website. Similar to our spring plan, the final plan document is a living document that may change as new guidance and mandates arise.

    A few reminders for coming back to our buildings:

    • Mask wearing: As mentioned in the email sent on August 29, in accordance with the mandate issued by the New York State Department of Health, all students, staff and visitors must wear face masks while inside Carmel Central School District school buildings and while on school buses, regardless of vaccination status.
    • COVID-19 Screener: A daily COVID-19 health screener for each student will no longer be required. However, parents are asked to commit to a one-time agreement for following specific health guidelines, similar to those listed in the screening form in the spring. Please complete the attached screener document, one for each child, and return it to your child’s building principal no later than September 10, 2021.
    • Cleaning/Disinfecting/Mitigation Strategies: The same cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place during the spring will continue in our buildings. Windows and doors will continue to be kept open as much as possible. Barriers will still be an option.
    • Social-Emotional Learning Screeners: In order to ensure that social-emotional needs are met for all students, we are asking parents to complete a Social-Emotional Screening Survey for each student, similar to the one completed last year. Once this screening questionnaire is completed, our counseling and clinical staff will review your/your child's individual needs and determine a plan moving forward.

    The final 2021 Reopening Plan document provides full details on these areas and more. If you have any questions regarding our reopening plan, please send an email to reopening@carmelschools.org.

    Thank you for your ongoing support as we continue to look to the leaders at the state and local Departments of Health and state Education Department for guidance. We recognize that there are still so many unknowns in the world today, but one thing we do know is that our teachers and staff will provide a supportive and enjoyable year for our students.

    Once again, welcome to the 2021-2022 school year! I can’t wait to see our students again tomorrow morning!

    Sincerely,

    Mary-Margaret Zehr
    Superintendent of Schools
    Carmel Central School District

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • August 29, 2021

    Dear Carmel Parents, Students & Staff,

    On August 27, 2021, The New York State Department of Health issued a mandate establishing that masks are still required to be worn while indoor school facilities.

    The mandate from the New York State Department of Health is as follows:

    “Effective immediately, in accordance with the Commissioner's Determination issued pursuant to 10 NYCRR 2.60, any person over the age of 2 (including all students, personnel, teachers, administrators, contractors, and visitors) must wear masks at all times indoors in P-12 school buildings, regardless of vaccination status. People with medical or developmental conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask may be exempted from mask requirements, as documented by a medical provider. People do not need to wear masks when eating, drinking, singing, or playing a wind instrument; when masks are removed for these purposes, individuals must be spaced six feet apart. All mask requirements must be applied consistently with any state and federal law (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act).”

    Additional Resources 

    In accordance with this mandate, all students, staff and visitors must wear face masks while inside Carmel Central School District school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, beginning Monday, August 30, 2021. 

    As this mandate has been issued from the New York State Department of Health, no decision is needed from the Board of Education at the August 31 meeting. We will continue to keep you informed on any updates that continue to be communicated from the New York State Department of Education or New York State Department of Health. 

    Sincerely,

    Mary-Margaret Zehr
    Superintendent of Schools
    Carmel Central School District

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • August 20, 2021

    Dear Carmel Parents & Students,

    Thank you for your patience and input regarding plans for our students to return to our school buildings for the 2021-22 school year.

    Our Fall 2021 Reopening Committee has been hard at work, reviewing guidance and mandates, having important discussions, and leading decisions to ensure that we can welcome our students back safely.

    Thank you to all the staff, students and parents who are a part of the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee. Your assistance and thoughtful discussions have made all the difference in our planning during a challenging global pandemic.

    We are excited to welcome our students back for in-person learning on Thursday, September 2!

    Website Update
    We are thrilled to share that the District and individual school websites will be getting a visual makeover over the next few days. You will still be able to access all the same information that is on our website now, just in a brighter, modernized and visually appealing new layout. We are eager to share the updated website with you. Look for the website to update by Monday!

    On behalf of the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee, I am providing the following updates on our reopening plans:

    Fall 2021 Reopening Committee Updates
    The Fall 2021 Reopening Committee met on August 12 and August 19 to continue discussions regarding the recent guidance provided by the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department to prepare for reopening our schools this fall for the 2021-22 school year. 

    Guidance Resources: 

    Documents from the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee meeting are available on the Carmel Central School District website, and included here for easy access: 

    Fall 2021 Reopening Plans
    The Fall 2021 Reopening Committee is continuing to review updated guidance and mandates as they are provided by the New York State Department of Health, New York State Education Department and the Governor’s office. 

    Current plans and final decisions of the Committee include: 

    • All Carmel Central School District students will return to in-person learning on September 2, unless a student has an approved medical accommodation. An email and form to request an accommodation was emailed to parents on August 11. If you still need to submit a 504 accommodation form for your student, please do so as soon as possible.  
       
    • COVID-19 Screener: A daily COVID-19 health screener for each student will no longer be required. However, parents will be asked to commit to a one-time agreement for following specific health guidelines, similar to those listed in the screening form in the spring.
       
    • Cleaning/Disinfecting/Mitigation Strategies: The same cleaning and disinfecting protocols in place during the spring will continue in our buildings. Windows and doors will continue to be kept open as much as possible. Barriers will still be an option.
       
    • Instruction: If 50% of students in a Grades K-4 class must quarantine due to exposure, the class will shift to remote instruction. The Grades K-4 teachers will work with families to provide alternate instruction options when less than 50% of students are quarantined. For Grades 5-12, if students are quarantined due to exposure, confirmed by the Putnam County Department of Health, they will be contacted by their teachers via email or their Teams pages with information on how to access virtual livestreams of their classes. Any learning from the previous school year will be addressed individually by building administration and teachers. Grant funding has been allocated to address these needs.
       
    • Temperature Checks: The District will continue to do random temperature checks of students and staff at all school buildings.
       
    • Transportation: In compliance with federal mandates, students and staff are required to wear face masks while on school buses.
       
    • Food Services: Any family that has students in remote-learning and requires food distribution can contact Food Services for assistance.
       
    • Athletics: Fall Athletics will begin as scheduled next week. As we continue to review ever-changing guidance, there may be some changes to how health protocols are handled in terms of athletics.
       
    • Social Gatherings: Virtual options will be considered for all social gatherings depending on the event.

    Topics still being discussed for final decision by the Committee: 

    • Mask Wearing: We are still awaiting guidance from New York State on mask wearing. If NY State does not issue specific guidance on masks, the Carmel Central School District Board of Education will make a decision for the District at a special Board meeting on August 31. 

    • Social-Emotional Learning Screeners: The committee is considering options for social-emotional learning (SEL) screening tools. The committee feels it is important to have both parent input on a student through a screening tool, as well as teacher input from in-person observations. More information regarding social-emotional learning will be sent to parents prior to the start of the school year.

    • COVID-19 Testing: The committee is still in discussion about providing parents with the option to have their child COVID-19 tested on a routine basis.

    • Extracurricular Activities: The committee is still in discussion on how extracurricular activities and special area subjects will be impacted by COVID-19 health protocols.

    Fall 2021 Reopening Plan Document
    A final plan document outlining the committee’s decisions for the Fall 2021 reopening will be available on the Carmel Central School District website once final decisions have been made. Similar to our spring plan, the final plan document is a living document that may change as new guidance and mandates arise. 

    Thank you to our entire community for your patience and support during a unique reopening plan process. Every decision regarding our reopening is thoughtfully reviewed to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for our students and staff. 

    If there is something you wish to see the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee address, please email reopening@carmelschools.org

    Please stay safe and be well!

    Sincerely,

    Mary-Margaret Zehr
    Superintendent of Schools
    Carmel Central School District

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • August 10, 2021

    Dear Carmel Parents, Students, Staff and Community,

    On Friday, August 6, 2021, the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee met to discuss current guidelines and guidance from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department to prepare for reopening our schools this fall for the 2021-22 school year.

    As part of the transparent process with the Committee, documents from the meeting are available on the Carmel Central School District website, and included here for easy access:

    The committee will reconvene on Thursday, August 12, for additional review of current guidelines and guidance from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department.

    We will communicate any decisions made by the Committee at the meeting, or any additional guidance that is released, as quickly as possible.

    Sincerely,

    Carmel Central School District Administration

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • July 29, 2021

    Dear Carmel Community,

    Summer break is in full swing, and I hope that all of you are enjoying the wonderful weather, getting much-deserved relaxation, and having tons of fun, safely!

    While the hallways of our school buildings are much quieter right now, there is still so much exciting activity taking place, including the library renovation at George Fischer Middle School, the extended school year for our special education students, Future Genius camps for select eighth grade students, and general maintenance and updates to prepare for the new school year. 

    As we look ahead to the fall, we await guidance and expectations from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Department of Education. We don’t yet know what the year will look like for our students and staff, but we are committed to providing a safe and engaging learning environment, above all.

    We anticipate receiving guidance soon and when we do, our Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services & Technology Joseph Simoni will reconvene our Fall 2021 Reopening Committee, comprised of parents and staff, to review the available information and make decisions. We will communicate any decisions with you as quickly as possible.

    We have not received any guidance yet and don’t know what requirements will be needed, which has made planning for the fall reopening challenging. The Committee has already provided early preparation plans and important discussions ahead of any directives from the State, and we are ready to address any directives received.

    Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we navigate this process and plan for an amazing year. We can’t wait to kick off the 2021-2022 school year in just a few weeks!


    Sincerely,

    Mary-Margaret Zehr
    Superintendent

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • April 12, 2021

    Dear Carmel Community,

    We are excited to welcome our students back tomorrow, April 13, for full-time in-person learning. It has been a long journey, but we can’t wait to see more of your smiling, but masked, faces in our buildings tomorrow!

    Our staff has been hard at work preparing our buildings for your arrival, installing barriers and making the necessary changes to our space to provide a safe educational environment in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    The return to in-person learning is a testament the support that our parents have provided, and the thoughtful decisions that have kept our students and teachers healthy. We will continue to need the entire communities partnership to keep our school environments safe.

    Daily COVID-19 Screener
    It is important that the required daily COVID-19 screener for students is completed every morning prior to coming to our school buildings. By remaining vigilant, completing the daily screener, and not sending your student(s) to school while sick, you will help keep our schools safe and open.

    Resources
    Our staff has worked to make this transition back easier by providing health and safety information and coping resources which have been emailed out to the community, and made available on our Return to In-Person Learning webpage.

    Additional resources from our Pupil Personnel Services team: 

    Social-Emotional Learning Parent Night
    We will be offering a parent night with a focus on Social-Emotional Learning on April 27, 2021, beginning at 5:45 p.m. The night will begin with a virtual meditation via Zoom followed by a presentation from the Lower Hudson Valley Family and Community Engagement Center on social-emotional support.

    We know that in-person classroom time will provide important learning opportunities and social-emotional benefits for our young learners, and we are excited to be able to fully provide that againWe remain committed to doing all that we can to maintain our in-person learning plans through the remainder of the school year.

    Thank you to the entire Carmel community for making this return possible. You continue to make our students a priority and your dedication has profound positive impacts on our students.

    Please be safe and stay well. We will see you tomorrow! 

    Sincerely, 
    Mary-Margaret Zehr 

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • April 8, 2021

    Dear Carmel Community,

    As we move forward with our transition back to in-person learning next week, we recognize that there are many emotions that may arise for our students, their families and our staff.

    To help make the transition back easier, we are providing additional resources on coping strategies that may be beneficial over the coming days and weeks.

    Resources:

    These resources and more are available on our Return to In-Person Learning webpage.

    We look forward to welcoming many of our students back to our classrooms on Tuesday, April 13. We know that in-person classroom time is important to our students' educational experience and their social-emotional wellbeing, and we are committed to doing all that we can to maintain our in-person learning plans through the remainder of the school year.

    As part of our ongoing communication, we will be providing additional resources, including a mental health screener and information on what to expect when returning to in-person learning, next week.

    Thank you, again, for your partnership during this important transition. Our students are our priority and, together, we will continue to educate the whole student to become lifelong learners in an ever-changing world.

    Sincerely,
    Mary-Margaret Zehr

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • April 6, 2021

    Dear Carmel Community,

    The District is preparing to welcome our students back for in-person learning five days a week beginning April 13. This transition back to in-person learning is important for the academic and social-emotional wellbeing of so many of our students.

    We are preparing for the new challenges that may arise with more students in-person in our schools. We continue to take proactive measures and will follow our mitigation strategies and the rules established by our local Department of Health.

    As part of our preparation we are providing the community with additional resources about COVID-19 safety and quarantining. Parents and students will receive detailed information about returning to specific buildings directly from building principals.

    Resources:

    These resources and more are available on our Return to In-Person Learning webpage.

    We will continue to provide additional resources in the coming days and months as we work together to maintain our in-person learning through the remainder of the school year. Our students are our priority and we appreciate your support of one another and our schools during this transitional time.

    Sincerely,
    Mary-Margaret Zehr

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • March 22, 2021

    Dear Carmel Community,    

    We are pleased to share that the District will be increasing opportunities for in-person learning. The Return to Learn Committee provided thoughtful recommendations and we are thankful for their insight. Several essential pieces of information about the transition to additional in-person days can be found below. 

    In-Person Five (5) Days a Week
    Beginning April 13, 2021, we will be implementing additional in-person opportunities for all grade levels. Additional information is available in our Spring 2021 Plan document.

    • Grades K-4
      • Students will attend in person every school day of the week beginning on April 13, 2021.
      • Students/parents will have the option to remain remote five (5) days a week.
      • Students who are quarantined will be provided with asynchronous work for days that they may be quarantined.
    • Grades 5-8  
      • Students will attend in person every school day of the week beginning on April 13, 2021.
      • Students/parents will have the option to remain remote five (5) days a week.
      • Students who are absent will attend classes remotely via streaming.
    • Grades 9-12  
      • Students will attend in person every school day of the week beginning on April 13, 2021.
      • Students/parents will have the option to remain remote five (5) days a week.
      • Students/parents will have the option to remain in a hybrid model. 
      • Students who are absent will attend classes remotely via streaming.

    Remote-Learning Days
    There will be two remote-learning (asynchronous) days prior to the start of increased in-person learning. These days will provide the District opportunities to set up classrooms, install barriers, and plan for social-emotional learning (SEL) activities for students. Students will have a remote-learning day on April 9, and April 12. April 16 will be a regular school day and the previously scheduled staff development day has been canceled. 

    Increased Communication for Return to In-Person Learning
    All communications regarding the return to in-person learning can be found on our website. 

    • Return to Learn Learning Model Survey due March 29: Parents will receive a Return to Learn survey from their building principals to select a learning model option for the rest of the school year. This survey is mandatory for all parents to complete. Surveys are due on March 29. 
       
    • Principals Zoom Coffee Sessions – April 6, 2021: Building principals will hold Zoom Coffee sessions to explain details specific to their buildings. The dates and times are as follows: 
      • Kent Elementary: April 6 at 5 p.m. A Zoom link will be forwarded to all parents.
      • Kent Primary: April 6 at 5 p.m. A Zoom link will be forwarded to all parents.
      • Matthew Paterson Elementary: April 6 at 5 p.m. A Zoom link will be forwarded to all parents.
      • George Fisher Middle School: April 6 at 7 p.m. A Zoom link will be forwarded to all parents.
      • Carmel High School: April 6 at 6 p.m. A Zoom link will be forwarded to all parents.

    These Coffee sessions will be recorded and available on our website for those who are unable to attend the live options. 

    Resources & Additional Information

    • April 5-9: The District will provide families and students with information about COVID safety, quarantining, and social-emotional resources. Additionally, building principals will provide detailed information about return to specific buildings. 
    • April 12-16: The District will provide families and students with welcome back messages, reminders about remaining healthy, and how to transition back to in-person learning.
    • April 19-June 25: The District will continue to provide families and students with information about remaining healthy and social-emotional resources. 

    Mitigation Strategies to Prevent the Spread of COVID
    We know that there is evidence that tells us the virus transmission rates in schools are low if mitigation strategies are in place. 

    • We will continue to follow all previous mitigation strategies including screeners, random temperature checks, surface disinfection, masking, and hygiene practices. 
    • When students are distanced less than 6-feet, we will be installing barriers.
    • We will start in-person opportunities on April 13, 2021, as we want to mitigate any transmission from out-of-area travel during spring vacation. 

    Cafeteria & Lunch 

    • Elementary Schools: Students will eat in the cafeteria with polycarbonate dividers assigned to every other space. PTO tables will be placed in the gymnasium as needed.  
    • Middle School: Students will eat in the cafeteria with polycarbonate dividers assigned to every other space. PTO tables will be placed in the gymnasium as needed. 
    • High School: Students will be allowed to go uptown. Alternate eating areas with polycarbonate dividers will be available throughout the school. 

    Transportation
    Students will need to sit two in every seat. Parents can request to have their child wear a face shield with a mask on the bus. The District will provide shields to parents who request them for their children. Parents will have the option to transport their student rather than take the bus. 

    Return to In-Person Learning Committee
    Our Return to In-Person Learning Committee provided the District with essential information and recommendations for us to increase our in-person instructional days. We are thankful for the insight and dedication to review all aspects of increasing in-person days. The Committee will need to reconvene later this spring to begin addressing Fall 2021. 

    Challenges of Increased In-Person Instruction
    We are prepared that there will be new challenges with more students in-person at our schools. We will continue to encounter cases of the virus and quarantining will continue under the rules established by our local Department of Health. Building and district-level administrators will work with staff, students, and parents to address challenges as they occur. 

    Health and Wellness
    Please remain vigilant about all health and safety protocols so our community stays well and so we have the best chance of maintaining in-person learning through June. If your children are sick, please do not send them to school. Please refer to the NYSDOH flow chart regarding when you should see a physician or be tested for COVID. 

    This past year has been the most challenging year for our students, parents, staff, and community, and we know there is a clear link between learning in-person and the academic and social-emotional well-being of our students. We are appreciative that our community has been able to come together to make sure the students are our priority as we begin increasing in-person instruction. 

    Sincerely,
    Mary-Margaret Zehr 

    Re-Opening Our Schools
  • March 11, 2021

    Dear Carmel Parents and Community,

    I hope this communication finds your family healthy and safe. I am writing to you today to share some important updates with you.

    High School Students with Disabilities in Co-taught Special Education Classes & English Language Learners
    Students with disabilities in co-taught special education classes and English Language Learners in grades 9-12 will begin in-person instruction five days a week on March 15, 2021. As per New York State recommendations, these learners need to be in-person to the greatest extent possible. Additional details for these groups will be emailed directly from the Office of Pupil Personnel Services.

    COVID Screeners
    It is essential that all students complete the COVID screener prior to coming to school each day. Additionally, if a student is experiencing any symptoms, they should not come to school. Screening forms can be found at: https://www.carmelschools.org/covid19_screening

    Can My Child Go to School Guidance?
    The schools are following the NYSDOH toolkit for schools which can be found at: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/02/nysdoh_prekgr12_toolkit_update-020121.pdf. The flow chart is easy-to-read and provides information regarding symptoms, travel and COVID testing. As we move toward changes to our Return to Learn plan and potentially bringing more students back to school, it is imperative that students are not coming into a school building while symptomatic.

    Spring 2021 Return to Learn Committee
    Joseph Simoni, assistant superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services, and Lizzette Ruiz-Giovinazzi, assistant superintendent for Instruction & Personnel, will be hosting the first Spring 2021 Return to Learn Committee meeting this week. The committee members will be answering questions in three areas: Health/Safety, Learning Model, and Social Emotional Learning. The committee consists of teachers, staff, parents and students. There are currently no decisions regarding the return of students more frequently or dates for any changes. The Committee will work quickly and focus on solutions and make a recommendation about how to move forward. Additionally, the minutes from the Spring 2021 Return to Learn Committee meetings will be posted on our website so that the process is transparent.

    Keep up the incredible work in helping your children to become lifelong learners in an ever-changing world. It is through this positive partnership between home and school that we will ensure the best possible outcomes for our children. Your ongoing support has meant a great deal to our school district staff.

    Sincerely,

    Mary-Margaret Zehr
    Superintendent

    Re-Opening Our Schools
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Fall 2021 Reopening Committee Updates

On Friday, August 6, 2021, the Fall 2021 Reopening Committee met to discuss current guidelines and guidance from the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department to prepare for reopening our schools this fall for the 2021-22 school year.

As part of the transparent process with the Committee, documents from the meeting are included here for easy access:

Committee Meeting: August 6, 2021

Prevention

Know an implement CDC guidelines for health and safety. Promote the 3Cs: COVER, CLEAN, CONTAIN

  • COVER: Teach children to cough into the crook of their elbow or into a tissue that is immediately thrown away.
  • CLEAN: Teach children to frequently wash their hands with water and soap for 20 seconds— about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Remind children to avoid touching their face.
  • CONTAIN: Contact the school nurse if you have any questions or concerns regarding symptoms, when to keep a child home, and how long your child should stay home when sick.

Prepare

Teach and model for your children how to maintain social distancing and use of a face covering outside the home. Prepare for health checks as we move forward toward the return to school.  Perhaps, pack a hand sanitizer in their back to school bag.

Plan

Similar to flu season, parents can have a backup plan should your child become sick and need to stay home. Identify who should be added to your contact list if a child would need to be collected from the school during work hours. Consider who will stay home and care for a child who may have a fever or be symptomatic. Reach out to the school nurse in your school if you have any questions.

Phone

Parents, please call your school office if you have someone in your household who is seeking medical attention, has been advised to isolate, or has a diagnosis of COVID-19.