The following column by Dr. Maria Lagana Suttmeier, Superintendent of Schools, was published in the Register-Star newspaper on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.
It is incredible what can happen in just one year. With so much uncertainty about the pandemic, we had much to fear as we re-opened our schools last September. That is not the case for the 2021-22 school year, which kicked off on September 9th for students, teachers and staff in the Hudson City School District.
This school year, we know what to expect. We have been here before but now with better information about how COVD-19 spreads and what mitigation measures are needed. We are following the science and listening to experts so we can ensure that our students and staff are protected from this invisible threat when they come to school.
We know the in-person learning environment is safe and the risk of virus transmission is low when everyone wears masks. We learned this through experience last year. Of the 74 positive cases of COVID-19 within the HCSD school community, zero were contracted within our school buildings. This can be attributed to the layered prevention strategies in addition to indoor masking, such as frequent hand washing, improved ventilation, physical distancing and ongoing cleaning.
The greater risk remains outside of school. Now that school is back in session, we must remember that we all have a personal responsibility to keep COVID-19 out of our schools. Please continue to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, wash your hands, avoid mass gatherings, stay home if you are sick, and consider getting vaccinated.
The opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is a new layer of protection that we did not have last fall. At the HCSD, more than 80% of teachers were fully vaccinated as of June and we anticipate that number to keep growing. Unfortunately, children 11 years of age and younger remain ineligible to be vaccinated at this time. Therefore it is especially important that we follow the established health and safety guidelines such as universal masking and physical distancing to help protect our youngest learners until they are eligible for vaccination. All eligible individuals are encouraged to get vaccinated as the CDC has indicated that is the leading public health strategy to end the pandemic. If interested, click here to find a COVID-19 vaccine location near you.
We have a lot to be thankful for as we look ahead to the rest of the 2021-22 school year. Not only are we able to bring students back to the in-person learning environment five days a week, but we unveiled a new set of district goals to guide our educational endeavors.
Our “Future Focused” goals were developed by the Board of Education to create bright prospects for the students who will pass through our classrooms over the next few years. The goals were drafted in February 2020, just before our world, as we knew it, changed so dramatically. Due to the uncertain times and unforeseeable future, the new goals were put on pause. Now, we are ready to turn our attention to the new Future Focused goals that are designed to create an engaging, inclusive and inspiring educational environment with multiple opportunities for our students to Achieve Academic Excellence, Become Future Ready and Commit to Civic Engagement. I look forward to sharing more about our Future Focused goals in my November column.
For now, please continue to follow the CDC guidance so we can all stay healthy and keep our students learning in classrooms. With your partnership, we can provide our students with the quality education and social-emotional support they need and deserve. Let’s work together to make it a great school year.