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District opens its doors to students for 2020-2021 school year

on September 11, 2020
Students arrive at Park Avenue Elementary School

Students arrive for class on the second day of school (and the first day for third- and fourth-graders in cohort B) at Park Avenue Elementary School on Sept. 9, 2020.

After months of careful planning, Warwick Valley Schools successfully opened its doors this week to students studying in the District’s hybrid learning model – students in Cohort A arrived to their first day on Tuesday, followed by students in Cohort B on Wednesday. When their cohort is not in school, students are still learning virtually through their classrooms, which are streaming synchronized live instruction to them at home.

The District also launched its Distance Learning Academy on Tuesday, for students who opted to continue with an all-remote option.

Also, in recognition of the need for its youngest students to learn with direct teacher support, the District is having its kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade students attend school five days a week.  

Tuesday and Wednesday also marked the first days when students were back in the school buildings since last March, when the District moved to fulltime distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is great to be back with our students, and the energy around our buildings this week – from the students and their parents and our staff – has been incredible,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach. “We are proud and happy to report that both of the learning models we developed over the summer have been launched smoothly. There are many people to thank for that, including our own Reopening Task Force and those community members who provided us with such great feedback during the process.”

The District has about 2,900 students enrolled in its hybrid learning program and 700 students studying via the Distance Learning Academy. High school students were the first students back, and the first to step through the temperature sensors installed in the entrances of all school buildings.

“We are so excited to start the school year with live instruction in our high school,” said Warwick High School Principal Marguerite Fusco.  “Students were wearing big smiles behind their masks as they entered the building, and everyone was on board immediately with our new protocols.”

Temperature sensors were one of many additions the District made over the summer to promote safety and protect everyone’s well-being. Hand sanitizing stations were installed, air circulation systems were checked and fitted with all-new filters, polycarbonate partitions were installed where needed, and staff was added to handle the increased volume of daily and nighttime cleaning.

No district building received more attention than the newly reopened Pine Island Elementary School. Along with all the same District-wide safety measures other buildings received, Pine Island was given a total makeover, including new flooring and paint, new furniture and fixtures, important technology upgrades, and more. The elementary school also got a new Principal, although he’s no stranger to the District.

“Greeting parents and their children on Tuesday was wonderful,” said Acting Principal John Russo, who has served the District in many capacities over 40 years. “Parents were supportive and grateful, and the kids were clearly excited. Pine Island Elementary has never looked better, and the teachers and I are just as excited as the students to be here.”

Although the 2020-2021 academic year has begun, there will likely be some challenges as the pandemic continues.

“We must all remain careful during these times,” said Dr. Leach. “Our plans and best intentions may quickly fall short without each stakeholder’s cooperation and patience. We all bear responsibility for and have the ability to protect the health and well-being of students, staff, and families. The safeguarding of our entire community will also require adhering to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. Please support our efforts regarding Warwick’s 3W’s to reduce the risk: wearing masks, washing hands, and watching your distance. We also ask everyone to complete the COVID-19 screening survey each morning before boarding buses or entering schools.”

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