Dear Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Community,
I hope this letter finds all of you safe, well, and adjusting to this unprecedented time in our nation. I know that the extended closure of schools has not been easy, but our students, staff, parents, and community members continue to do incredible work during these times of adversity. I have never been prouder to be a member of this extraordinary community!
As I am sure you know, the guidance regarding schools from our president and governor is changing rapidly. Yesterday, Governor Cuomo extended his mandated closure of schools at least through April 29.
Governor Cuomo’s most recent Executive Order mandates that New York State schools forgo any upcoming Spring Breaks in order to comply with the 180-day waiver and avoid the loss of state funding. This means that we are required to maintain continuity of instruction, the distribution of meals, and emergency childcare during our scheduled Spring Break of April 9-19.
I am sure you can imagine that the cancellation of our Spring Break has myriad consequences, including religious concerns, contractual and labor issues, and the emotional well-being of our students, staff, and parents. Please know that I, and a number of educational organizations, continue to voice concerns to Governor Cuomo regarding his most recent Executive Order. To date, these actions have proved futile. It is also important to note that according to the New York State School Boards Association, school districts cannot lawfully recess for a religious holiday but it is acceptable for students and staff members to take the day off in accordance with local policies and collective bargaining agreements.
After much thought, and in an effort to both comply with the Executive Order and address the needs of our community, Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools has decided to issue District-wide assignments for students and staff as follows:
• Thursday, April 9 and Friday, April 10: Celebrate, relax, reconnect, and make memories with family and friends (while observing social distancing guidelines, of course). Everyone should also curl up and read a favorite book, and play board games or cards as a family. Another great idea is to write thank you letters to our health care professionals and first responders. They sure would love to hear from us during this time of tremendous sacrifice. Students should be prepared to discuss their experiences and memories with their teachers and/or principal beginning on Monday, April 20.
• Monday, April 13 – Friday, April 17: We are declaring this week New York State History Week. As a very proud New Yorker, there is no greater time than now to learn about our great state. So together, let’s explore and visit many of the wonderful places New York State has to offer. During this week, all students and staff should take two Virtual Field Trips each day and bring a family member along for the ride! The schedule of Virtual Field Trips by school is attached. Please share any interesting information or exciting places found with teachers, principals, and me! Students should also be prepared to discuss their “trips” with their teachers and/or principal beginning on Monday, April 20.
We are also revising our previous information regarding the distribution of meals on April 9, 10, and 13. To comply with the Governor’s Executive Order, the District WILL be distributing meals on April 9, 10, and 13 at Hewlett High School between the hours of 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM. Meals will also be distributed on all other week days as well.
I know that information regarding schools is coming at a fast and furious pace, necessitating that we continue to revise previously communicated plans. Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding as we adjust to this rapidly evolving situation as a community.
At this time, there is no greater importance than the health and safety of our students, staff, parents, and community. Together, we will navigate this storm and emerge once again as the unparalleled, compassionate, and extraordinary community of Hewlett-Woodmere.
I wish you and your families well.
Ralph Marino, Jr., Ed.D.