The Rye schools – in the classroom and on the field – are expected to operate normally – as they did pre-COVID, according to a late summer update from Rye City School District Superintendent Eric Byrne.
While final guidelines will still come down prior to school opening on Wednesday, September 7th, the expectation is full in person school with no COVID related precautions such as distancing. There will be no remote option offered.
The schools have been busy over the summer with staff development, lots of construction and security improvements including Rye PD training.
The full update from Byrne follows:
RCSD Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne’s Message to the Community
Dear Rye Community,
As the summer draws to a close, we are expecting and planning that the Rye City School District schools will be as they were pre-COVID on the first day of school, Wednesday, September 7. While we are still awaiting official guidance from New York State, we expect it will follow the recent CDC recommendations. Full in-person programming will be in place at all schools. There will be no social distancing or cohorting. In addition, we will not offer remote schooling or live streaming of classes. In July, Governor Hochul indicated that masks would not be required in schools. We will continue to support any students, faculty, or staff who choose to wear a mask. As has also been the case for the last two school years, we are prepared to pivot quickly in the event that restrictions are imposed or lifted. Fingers and toes crossed this won’t be necessary!
If you’ve driven by one or more of the school buildings over the summer, you may have noticed that there is a fair amount of activity going on. The District offered enhanced summer school programs to our students at all levels. The District has always offered summer school, but for the past two years, we expanded our summer programs to meet the needs of students struggling due to the pandemic.
Approximately 15 middle school students grades 6-8 were selected for the summer program based on teacher recommendations, assessment data, and grades. The three-week program provided support in ELA or mathematics and included a social emotional learning (SEL) component. All of the classes were co-taught with a subject area teacher and a special education teacher.
A similar number of students in grades 9-12 attended a three-week long high school summer session based on teacher recommendations or for credit recovery in one or more required courses. The program combined skill-based supports within course content curricula to ensure students are successful with content-specific standards and gain the credits needed for graduation requirements.
The Special Education Extended School Year (ESY) program was six weeks in duration and the English as a New Language (ENL) program lasted for three.
Over 100 members of our faculty and staff have taken advantage of professional development opportunities over the summer. Teachers and administrators attended a two-day SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Institute in late June designed to help them bring practical SEL tools into the classroom. These tools include welcoming rituals, inclusion activities, brain breaks, and effective transitions. A group of elementary school teachers began a year-long course focused on incorporating structured grammar lessons into their teaching. K-12 teachers took a class on digital classroom tools to help spur creativity in the classroom. Elementary teachers took a course on weaving fluency (the ability to read accurately with proper pace and expression) into daily reading instruction. At the end of August, another group of elementary teachers are taking a STEAM workshop exploring the District’s new makerspaces. They will learn how to use the spaces and how to design STEAM projects. Also in August, a group of K-12 teachers are starting a year-long course based on the What School Could Be educational resources platform to develop authentic assessments and curriculum that provide students with real world challenges.
Mental Health Support
The COVID pandemic has left an increase in anxiety and depression in its wake, particularly among school-aged youth. The RCSD is committed to continuing to provide increased mental health support in all our schools and for the wider Rye community. To support our youngest students, the District has hired an elementary school counselor who will work with students grades 3-5 alongside a current elementary counselor who works with students in grades K-2.
The District is in year two of a partnership with Effective School Solutions (ESS). ESS provides the District with two clinicians based at Rye High School and Rye Middle School. The ESS clinicians support students presenting with mild to moderate mental health challenges. This year, they will manage two new Therapeutic Support Services teacher assistants who will work with Middle and High School students with more significant mental health challenges and those students who are transitioning back to school after medical issues, such as a concussion, and who may need special school-related accommodations.
Finally, the District has partnered with Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) and the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health to create a satellite mental health clinic for District children and their families at 324 Midland Avenue on the Midland School campus. WJCS is the largest Westchester provider of community-based licensed outpatient services. We anticipate that the clinic will open later this fall. There will be much more information to share as we get closer to the opening of the clinic.
Rye residents may also have noticed a fair amount of construction taking place at the school buildings over the summer months. The new secure entrances are almost complete at all five schools. Beginning in September, there will be a new entrance to Rye High School! The new entrance is through the Performing Arts Center. All students, faculty, staff, and visitors will now use this entrance rather than the door adjacent to the Middle School parking lot. We know this is a big change and may take some getting used to – for all of us!
The third floor at the High School is complete and ready for use by The Academy at RHS, the alternative high school program. A new elevator behind the Performing Arts Center will enable access from the first to the third floors of the school for those students and faculty who need it for medical reasons.
The new RMS Innovation Lab (iLab), an exciting new instructional space on the first floor adjacent to the guidance suite, is almost ready for use. Ten rooms at RMS and several offices have received upgraded heating, cooling, and ventilation. The RMS facade is undergoing significant masonry work repair needed due to existing water damage. This work is ongoing but should have no impact on the entryway or parking lot.
The renovated elementary libraries are complete, and the new flexible space auditoriums at Osborn and Midland Schools are as well. Osborn School has had quite a bit of roof work done, and new windows have been installed in the first and second grade wings. Ten classrooms received upgraded heating, cooling, and ventilation as well as energy-efficient lighting. Midland School has new windows throughout the school. Both Milton and Midland School have been the recipients of some much-needed rewiring work which should make connectivity at both schools far better.
Safety and security remains top of mind for many of us. This summer the District’s security personnel worked with the Rye Police Department to conduct training in and provide an orientation to all of our school buildings. With some new officers on the force, it was a good time to provide additional opportunities for them to get to know the layout of the schools. We thank them for their diligence and partnership in working to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe.
The District has made significant strides in enhancing security. There are now a substantial number of surveillance cameras on all school campuses. We have upgraded all school security systems, communications links, and monitoring. The District recently added a new security guard at the High School and Middle School, bringing the total number of in-District guards to 10. All have law enforcement and/or a military background.
Fall Sports and Extracurriculars
All indications are that we will have a normal year, free of COVID-related restrictions on game attendance or mask requirements.
Extracurricular activities and clubs generally begin a few weeks after the start of school. Those also look to be free of COVID restrictions.
I want to thank the community of Rye for its continued support of the school district over the past few incredibly challenging years. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brightly.
Eric Byrne, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools