Note from the superintendent: Back to school 2020-21

Once upon a time, on the evening of Sunday, March 13, 2020, the reality of the State’s health emergency hit close to home. Ken Miller, Chairman of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors and Supervisor for the Town of Palmyra, declared a state of emergency for Wayne County. Subsequently, the Palmyra-Macedon Central School District announced a district-wide closure of all schools. And . . . once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks. She entered the scene at Pal-Mac.


Goldilocks went for a walk in the forest. Pretty soon, she came upon a house. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.


At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry. She tasted the porridge from the first bowl.


“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed. So, she tasted the porridge from the
second bowl.


“This porridge is too cold,” she said. So, she tasted the last bowl of porridge.


“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and she ate it all up.


You know how things went from there. The chair was too small. The bed was too hard.


While some families wanted teachers to provide a specific schedule for each day, others appreciated flexibility. While some wanted books and handouts for kids to complete, others wanted the creativity to explore learning with their children. When we thought we hit our stride, rules were changed at the last minute . . . even on Sundays!


As we were caught between the extremes of the Burger King mindset, “having it your way,” of either too much or too little, this beloved fairy tale invoked at the onset of the emergency remote learning would become “normal” for the next few months. During the closure and into the summer, the District’s year-round staff members continued to provide essential services along with several transportation and food service employees who maintained the National School Lunch Program.


Operating under specific state guidelines, the buildings were able to open in July on a limited basis for its extended school year (ESY) programs for students with significant special needs. At the height of summer (July 13), the New York State Department of Health (DOH) issued health and safety guidelines for all NYS school districts with the specific directive to prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction at this time. Four days later, the State Education Department (SED) issued substantial information to guide school reopening plans.


The story of Goldilocks serves as both a theme and reminder to every person impacted by the pandemic that forced school closures. What is “just right?” How do we measure it? Who decides? How do we know?


The tale’s theme guides the reopening of the school district. Clearly we are not in a time for a “one size fits all” approach. Finding what is “just right” is no easy task; “just right” is different for every single student and for every single family. It varies for every faculty member and for every school district. In addition, we have all been in the same position as the bear family! Not everything fits with Goldilocks’ expectations. Everyone’s personal circumstances (e.g., childcare, internet accessibility, meal availability, health and safety) impacts what is preferred from the school district. And yet, within this realm of public school, there is a necessary “fit” within the budget approved by the residents of the School District. On top of this, the Governor has begun withholding State revenues to districts with further threats not to fulfill the State’s obligations to support local schools in the coming year.


Providing “just right” will continue to change as the circumstances of the State health emergency impact Pal-Mac. Please be ready as challenges are before us.


Despite the constant change, the perseveration of the unknown, and piqued emotions, our community has persisted and ensured results in response to mandates rolled out from Albany.


. . . Just then, Goldilocks woke up and saw the three bears. She screamed, “Help!” And she jumped up and ran out of the room. Goldilocks ran down the stairs, opened the door, and ran away into the forest. And she never returned to the home of the three bears again! Unlike Goldilocks’ reaction to escape when there was no help, we remained focused on serving children in our communities. Neither miracles nor magic were part of any formula to maintain relationships among students, families, and school staff. It all had to do with commitment to leading with heart, compassion, and connection at the forefront of our decision making.


As a community, let’s join together in this common bond, making a commitment to positively share in the mission ahead of us.


Go Red Raiders.

Bob Ike, Superintendent

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