Our Spring term is colored by many concerns regarding Co-Vid 19 that have affected all of New York City. I know this is a stressful time. I write with some information in order to highlight some of the already published Departments of Education and Health suggestions and add some information as it relates specifically to Forest Hills High School.
Please help us to remind your students of the following best practices published by the NY Department of Education:
1. No one at FHHS makes the decision to close school or cancel educational programs. FHHS follows DoE policies. Those decisions will be broadcast through the websites listed above and in the general media first. Similarly, all health related news items will come from a central source and then through the school. I encourage you to rely on the sources I’ve described rather than individual student reports, neighbor/ friend reports, or Facebook or other social media platforms.
2. My communication with the custodian has been regular and on-going. Our staff is working within the Division of School Facilities’ guidelines to provide extra cleaning of commonly touched surfaces during the week. Monitoring of bathroom supplies and replenishment is conducted multiple times throughout the day.
3. Similarly, the Department of Health employees (school nurses) assigned to FHHS and I have been working to ensure that FHHS is taking all required steps to address new mandates and anticipate potential issues. Students can go to the nurses’ office with concerns that manifest during the school day. I repeat the importance of not sending your student to school if the conditions above exist prior to coming to school. If your student is sick, they should stay home (see above).
4. The DoE has provided some guidance on modified attendance policies. Students who are not in classes are marked absent. The absence is considered “excused” with the appropriate information from the parent. It is currently my understanding that the absence, like all excused absences, is part of the student’s record. That said, it is early days for this particular detail and will update as appropriate. In the meantime, please email our attendance office at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and your student’s guidance counselor IF you intend to keep your student home due to concerns around CoVid-19.
5. FHHS will provide opportunities for students to independently engage in skill practice and content development through work that is either provided specifically by your student’s specific teacher through PupilPath or is departmentally assigned through the school’s website. These might include readings, handouts, practice Regents problems, essay prompts, textbook work, etc. The details for attaining the work will be made available at the beginning of this coming week in a separate announcement. Please know that students working independently at home is best supported through an at-home work schedule that structures the students’ engagement with materials through time-specific intervals. You and your child may choose to agree that each morning the student will work on math from 9am to 9:40am followed by a break and then another subject. Some adolescents find it difficult to tackle work at home and this type of structure may allow them to keep focused and may allow you to help them be accountable. In addition to the assigned work, students may always review notes and rewrite them in a neater, different structure. Students may review old topics using a text and the internet. Additionally, students may use the New York State Education (https://www.nysedregents.org/) website to review previous Regents exams and the answer keys or Engage New York materials (https://www.engageny.org/). As I have indicated above, more on work that students should do at home will be forthcoming.
6. The current circumstances we live in create extra stress for you, students and staff. FHHS teachers know their role as leaders for students and will continue to provide students with structure and calm through the uncertainty. It doesn’t mean that, as humans, we don’t feel stressed. I encourage you and your family, as I have our staff, to address the stress strategically and purposefully so that it is managed. I include here a link to some suggestions how and know that a Google search for managing stress might lead you to something more applicable to your circumstances: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/10/well/live/can-i-boost-my-immune-system.html In short, please actively engage with your student around self-care practices related to stress. It is a good time to monitor your child’s sense of well-being and stress levels by monitoring how you’re feeling, managing your intake of stressful updates and working to maximize rest/sleep. I insert here that I am not a doctor. I wish, however, for our whole community health and attention to healthy practices.
7. The staff at FHHS are continuing to monitor how our students treat one another. Nervous energy may generate immature behavior that uses the CoVid 19 situation as a vehicle for “humor.” We are actively looking out for circumstances where students who are being rude with their comments particularly as they affect others due to countries of origin or personal choices around using masks. We are emphasizing and addressing instances where an increased sensitivity to the current climate and diversity of choice is necessary. If you are concerned about how your student has been treated by others as it relates to CoVid 19, please reach out to Assistant Principal Bardossas Hbardos@schools.nyc.gov so that we can pursue it.
8. Parent Teacher Conferences will be held via phone and email, as per the DoE policy. Parents are NOT to come to FHHS to meet face to face. Conferences will be held on Thursday March 19th between 5:30pm and 8pm and on Friday March 20th between 12pm and 2:20pm. More on the logistics of the conferences is to follow in a separate notification.
9. I would be remiss if I did not point out the many things that have happened to this point at FHHS that have been positive and growth oriented.
a. Civics Week in the FHHS lobby included students and staff voting with IPads on how to spend $2,000 donated by the city government. Options included Support STEM Council, Support Science Olympiad, Support mural supporting GSA, Support Boys Basketball, Support Green Team Earth Day. Students voted to support the Basketball team.
b. Civics Week also provided an opportunity for seniors to register to vote as part of a FHHS initiative to create civically minded community members. Students registered in the lobby. Lead students conducted classroom sessions on the importance of voting.
c. The Global History Fair was March 5th. Selected 9th grade projects were on display throughout the day in the gymnasium. Each project creator was available to speak to the importance of the structure represented. I spent over an hour speaking to as many of the students as I could. Congrats to all glue shopping and scissor managing parents/ guardians who helped in the process.
d. Girl Up, a social-action group, was interviewed by the Today Show in celebration of the International Day of the Woman.
e. The FHHS Robotics Team called Artificial Intelligence finished the season 6th in the City.
f. The FHHS Science research groups (NYCSEF) completed a preliminary round of competition at City Field - 8 groups participated in research projects competition. More to come pending decisions around their calendar.
g. FHFactor, a FHHS talent show, celebrated all the diverse abilities of our student body with much fanfare. The show featured mostly students but did include a teacher only rock band which contributed to the excitement.
h. Among the various moments dedicated to celebrating African American History in February, student musicians performed the work of African American jazz composers to the delight of all.
i. The FHHS mock trial group did very well in its preliminary rounds of competitions with other schools. They are preparing for an April 1st competition that we hope is not rescheduled.
j. The FHHS Science Olympiad team was bound for a competition this weekend in Lamoine College to compete state-wide that, sadly was cancelled. The team is a top-10 city performer and, Coach Pedicini likes to point out, the only school without a testing process to enter.
k. FHHS works with two sister schools - one in France and one in Japan. 2020 was the year that Japanese students were to visit our school and stay with FHHS families. Due to the current health climate, the visit has been cancelled. Thank you to the 15 families who generously agreed to host a Japanese student and Teacher Higashide and Assistant Principal Macías who have fostered a productive relationship with our international friends to ensure that FHHS have an opportunity to broaden their horizons.
Lastly, I want to thank the energy of the your Parents Association which has remained undeterred in the face of the difficulties we’ve been experiencing. The next PA meeting is on April 7th and, as you can imagine, please keep on the lookout for which digital means we will use to provide access to the meeting.
I am wishing you some peace of mind in these turbulent times. Please know that your FHHS family is going to continue to work to support your student’s growth and learning.