Sunday, August 23, 2020

Week of August 24th

 UAI Staff Summer News

Volume VIII
Issue 5
August 24th, 2020

Principal's Message

Today, we are 10 work days from the first day teachers are to report to school and 12 work day from the first day of instruction (maybe).   I have to say "maybe" because we are still awaiting an official calendar for the school year.  However, we do know that soon, school will begin, and our students and families will be looking to each of us to provide structure, consistency and inspiration in the months to come.

Before diving into this weeks barrage of announcements and updates, I want to share a story.  These last few months have been exceptionally trying for all of us.  For me, when I pause to look ahead to the year that is to come, that stress and anxiety that has grown in me since March, flares up into something nearly uncontrollable.  Sprinkle on some hefty splashes of agita from from the mayor's and chancellor's offices, and my own state of mind is stretched thin, and I am pushed to my own brink.

But then a couple of weeks ago, a teacher asked me for some time to plan with her.  She was thinking about her first unit, and was looking for some ideas about how to proceed.  We sat and chatted for quite awhile and before I knew it, I was smiling and excited to be thinking about all the cool and different things that could get kids excited about learning at home.  During that conversation, I allowed myself to think alongside this teacher and move my thinking from the chaos of my current work to the joy of figuring out how to make learning fun and meaningful for our students.  The conversation was fun, refreshing, and inspiring, and I found myself for the first time all summer, truly excited to begin school again.

In the months to come, the world, the media, the impending many factors will be beating away at us relentlessly as we all survive this pandemic and current socio-policital state of our country.  What I learned as I planned with Sarah is that we, as pedagogues, have a precious resource - we can always tap into the joy of working with our students and their families.  

I want to say thank you to Sarah R for reminding me about why I actually chose to do this job each and everyday.  I love working with kids, I love working with people who love working with kids, I love thinking about cool and better ways to challenge and push kids to realizing their greatest potential, and I love working with their teachers & leaders to do the same!  Thank you Sarah, for reaching out to me for help, because in so doing, you helped me more than you can know!

I also want to charge you all to reach out to your planning partners, and create an agreement to hold each other up and push each other to remember to find or create the joy in your jobs. That happiness is always there - we just need to lift it up!  However it works for your team, make sure you prioritize naming the things that make you feel joy in your jobs.  If you are struggling to find those words, that's normal, but that is exactly the sign that says you need to reach out to your colleagues or your school leaders.  We cannot do this alone, particularly this year.  We need each other (like I needed Sarah to remember the joy and she needed me to think through some planning).  

When we reach out to connect with each other, doing the level of work that inspires us, that is when we will be able channel the joy and fulfillment that will carry us through this crazy year.

So let's do this UAI, and let's know the socks off COVID School year 2020-2021!!!

(Hat Tip to Phillan for giving me the words to express what I was feeling.  In her end-of-the-year conference, we spoke a lot about finding the joy in her work.  That convo hung with me all summer, and it wasn't until I worked again with Sarah that I was able to connect the idea to reality).


Happy Summer Birthdays!!!
Doris (26AUG)

COVID Updates. I have been constantly working with Carlos, our Custodial Engineer, and our District Director of Facilities to make sure our building is safe for reopening. In addition, Annie has been working hard to implement DOE guidance to implement protocols and procedures to maximize our ability to mitigate COVID transmission for in-person staff and students.

As a reminder, we are instituting layers of strategies to mitigate COVID transmission and protect students and staff from infection. For example, we are mandating that all in-person people where masks AND remain socially distant AND work in well-ventilated spaces AND have access to hand sanitizer/gloves/washing AND screen for symptoms. Our goal is to maintain all strategies all the time. At times, however, some strategies might have isolated points of failure (e.g. this student's mask breaks or those people are too close on the stairwells). It will not be perfect, but the temporary fail of one strategy does not erase the others. There is redundancy built into our systems for this precise reasons. That said, we will relentlessly work to maximization implementation of all of our COVID strategies.

That said, here's our current status on preparations for securing a safe & healthy school opening:
  • PPE and Health & Safety Protocols.  ThNYCDOE Back to School Pledge promises to secure the health and safety of our staff and students.  As your leader, I will not open the building if we do not have sufficient PPE and protocols in place to ensure the health and safety for all of our in-person staff and students.  Currently, I am working with Carlos and the principal's COVID Supplies hotline to make sure we are ready.  There is definite forward movement, and we are aiming to be able to open on September 10th.  Please review our UAI Health and Safety Checklist to see our status on the checklist of items we will need to meet in order to open.  

  • Preparing for In-Person Work.  This week the DOE is piloting prioritized COVID testing for select DOE personnel (principals and APs).  They will be opening this Prioritized Testing Plan promises 24-48 hour turnaround of results, and it will be integral in maximizing our ability to mitigate COVID transmission.  As a reminder, here is the citywide COVID-19 DOE School Health Policy

Classroom Setup. Last week, I asked for volunteers to come in and set up our classrooms for social distancing (see a Model Classroom).  Many thanks to Jen, Elena, Phil, Kelly (and Dashiel) for helping to set up our classrooms for the upcoming school year. They were so efficient that I had to call our other volunteers Rachel, Damon, and Nina to say we were going to finish before they arrived! Thank you everyone for volunteering!!

This year, you will not be able to move any furniture in your rooms. Each chair is 6' apart from all other chairs, and there is space set aside for teachers and paraprofessionals. Teachers will not have work space in classrooms when they are not teaching. All teachers will be assigned a work space and desk in an unused classroom or windowed and ventilated office space. In addition, this year, interior classrooms (and classrooms without windows) have been closed for use. All extra desks and furniture have been removed from instructional classrooms and all excess furniture is being stored in rooms without windows (so like 304, 302, 402, 404, locker room, B53, and B57. About four - six teachers will be assigned (and socially distanced) to unused classrooms, and we will try to make sure that planning teams are rooming together as much as possible.

Student Movement & Main Office Access. We are implementing new directional movement policies in halls and stairways and the main office will be closed to public access for the year (so no students are to be sent down to the main office for any reason). The particulars of those policies are still being finalized, but in general, students should remain in their rooms for all periods (except if they need to use the bathroom). If a student must be removed, an adult will come to get them.

Building Access. Beginning August 31st, staff & students will be able to access the building to collect personal belongings only. Unfortunately, we will not be able to grant full staff access until we receive further guidance, but students and staff may come to collect personal items from classrooms or lockers. Please use THIS FORM to register for an appointment time. No access will be granted without first registering.

Student Programming Look-Up. Starting later today, students and families will be able to use this Student Program Look-Up Tool to find out what their in-person days will be and what program they will be following. For seniors, their specific courses selections are still being chosen. Seniors should use this Senior Course Selection Form to submit their preferences.

PD Next Week. As a reminder, next week kicks off a series of PD and planning time to prepare for the upcoming school year. Please CLICK HERE to register by Friday, August 28th (Training rate per session will be paid to all registered participants!)

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