News Around The District
Spring has a different feel as students return to in-person instructionPosted by Alicia Smith on 4/13/2021 1:40:00 PM
It’s spring! The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the students are going back to school!
The students are what?
It may be an odd time of year to be thinking about back to school, but it was with a celebratory feeling that students made their way into the classrooms. It was an event that has not happened regularly since last year.
On April 8, the majority of students in the Elmsford Union Free School District returned to their classrooms for the start of four-day-a-week in-person instruction. All grades came back, with the exception of students who opted to continue with remote learning.
The 2020-21 school year began with remote instruction in the fall for all students. In November, students were divided into two cohorts. Each group spent two days a week in school and two days learning virtually, with one all-remote day for everyone. The current structure of having students in-person four days a week will be in place until the first week of May, when the district hopes to begin in-person instruction on all five days.
“Even the weather was reminiscent of a September day. This made the whole welcome back experience even more exciting,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marc Baiocco, who was outside the Alice E. Grady Elementary School greeting families as they dropped their children off.
“It was a wonderful experience as I interacted with our students and parents,” he said. “We saw students returning to in-person learning for the first time since the pandemic began. Our families were taking pictures as their children entered the school.”
Families had the option of keeping children in a remote structure. About 20% of the district’s families chose to remain remote.
Dr. Baiocco said the district had a three-part plan for determining when to bring more students back inside the schools. It consisted of scheduling educational assessments, increased vaccinations for staff who wished to be inoculated, and surveillance testing.
“I am overjoyed by our students returning,” Dr. Baiocco said. “It was a moving moment when I entered one class and asked students how their day was going and one remarked, ‘It is so nice to see all of my friends together.’”
Click here to see photos from the big day!
A virtual stroll through history during the Grady Living Wax MuseumPosted by Alicia Smith on 3/3/2021 10:00:00 AM
Students at Alice E. Grady Elementary School once again showcased their creativity during the third annual Living Wax Museum in honor of Black History Month. Students researched remarkable historical black figures, past and present, and shared what they learned with the Elmsford community.
Adjustments had to be made this year due to COVID-19. In years past, friends and families were invited to a special evening at the school, where they could see students give their presentations and “meet” famous figures. This year, instead of showcasing their work in person, students created short videos of themselves discussing the historical figures they researched, sharing quotes from them, and detailing their most noteworthy contributions and facts about their lives. On Friday, Feb. 26, the videos debuted on the school’s webpage and could be viewed by the broader Elmsford community.
During a preview of the event, Principal Andrea Hamilton shared a few snippets of the students’ work. In her introduction, Dr. Hamilton said the project was a way to “celebrate African Americans in our community and throughout history.”
Those who tuned in were introduced to Joan Higginbotham, the third black woman to go into space; Albert Frank Cox, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics; Mae Jamieson, the first African-American woman to be a part of the NASA program; Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic light; and Marie von Britten Brown, who invented the home security system, to name a few.
There were more well-known figures highlighted as well, including the founder of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable; professional pilot, Barrington Irving; Katherine Johnson, who calculated how to send a space craft into orbit for a trip around the moon; York, the slave of explorer William Clark, who traveled with him on his western expedition; and Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to get her pilot’s license.
Famous black musicians, such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Whitney Houston were included, along with actors Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry. The Living Wax Museum also featured authors including James Baldwin and Tiffany Jewell, and artists including Henry Tanner and Augusta Savage.
In some instances, students dressed up to represent their historical figures, and others had fun sharing some of the music of the artists they had learned about. The student-made videos not only included photos of these historical figures, but in some cases, students incorporated videos that detailed the person’s life or added special effects like video filters.
Happy 100th Day of School!Posted by Alicia Smith on 3/2/2021 1:30:00 PM
Students at Carl L. Dixson Primary School didn't let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in their way of celebrating an annual milestone. On Feb. 28, the school celebrated its 100th Day of School.
“It has always been important to us to celebrate the milestone of learning for 100 days together, while offering opportunities and activities that allow our young students to 'experience 100,'” said Dixson math teacher Andrea Cleveland, who is often the biggest 100th Day cheerleader at the school.
While students were not able to gather in the gym to work and play with the number “100,” they engaged with several activities to celebrate, using pre-recorded videos and virtual gatherings.
“Each grade level had an activity that was mailed home to each student,” Ms. Cleveland explained. “These activities were a perfect way for students to interact with their families and celebrate the 100th day of school.”
Pre-kindergarten students received a paper featuring 10 frames that counted to 100. The packet also contained 10 sets of 10 stickers that they used to decorate the frames and “sticker their way to 100,” Ms. Cleveland said.
The activity for kindergarten students included a sentence activity, where they drew a picture or cut out words to write a sentence about “I am 100 days smarter.”
First graders had fun using their addition skills to complete a puzzle. They also matched their addition answers with puzzle pieces to create a 100 Day picture.
A fun component of past 100th Day celebrations was when Principal Jeffrey Olender would read a book aloud to the entire school. While that was not possible this year, reading was still prominent in the celebration. Using Screencastify, a screen recorder for Chromebooks, guest readers read a book to students. The visitors were Board of Education President Candice Wood for pre-k, Mr. Olender for kindergarten and Superintendent Marc Baiocco for first grade.
Throughout the day, teachers used Seesaw, a platform for sharing materials and videos virtually, for other activities. One included a game of “Would You Rather” with the number 100. For example, one question was: “Would you rather swing 100 times or slide 100 times?”
“It is a fun opinion and oral language game," Ms. Cleveland said. "Students were able to record themselves explaining their choice and why."
Physical activity also helped students celebrate 100. Physical education teacher Kevin Tiernan pre-recorded a video that was shared with students. He showed them how to do 10 sets of 10 different exercises until they counted to 100.
Mr. Olender played host to a mystery game. Using Google Meet, students were shown clues about an item and had to guess what it was. Once a few guesses had been suggested, the mystery item was revealed. Ms. Cleveland had created a bulletin board showing 100 of the items. For example, one item was cylinder-shaped, white and fluffy. It turned out to be . . . a marshmallow! The bulletin board displayed a bag full of 100 of the sweet treats!
Special video project remembers lasting impact of Elmsford teachersPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/24/2021 4:00:00 PM
Teachers have the power to inspire, comfort and offer much-needed encouragement to their students. They may never know the impact they may have on any of those they teach.
Thanks to a special project, several current and former teachers have now become aware of just how important they were to the children in their classroom.
In honor of Black History Month, as a way to honor and celebrate African-American teachers and administrators who work or worked in the district, Board of Education President Candice Wood spearheaded a video project. Former students were invited to record a video of themselves talking about their favorite teacher and the influence he or she had on them.
“I am all about community; authentic, small-town, ‘old school’ community,” Ms. Wood said. “That’s what Elmsford was always about. This is the only reason that I am a member of the Board of Education, to try and revitalize that component to our school district, to remember the old-timers and introduce the newcomers to that essence.”
“This was my way of saying thank you to the individuals, outside of my family, that I hold dear. The ones that meant/mean so much to an entire community of people that have since gone down their paths in life, but still hold this place and those people close to their hearts,” Ms. Wood continued.
With assistance from the Parent Teacher Student Association and a team of helpers consisting of PTSA Vice President, Melanie Johnson, Alexander Hamilton High School Library Media Specialist Lisa Watson, Carl L. Dixson Primary School Teacher Aide Deb Williams, she was able to contact former students and get archived photos that were incorporated into the video.
First-ever PTSA virtual Karaoke Night was a hitPosted by Alicia Smith on 2/23/2021 3:00:00 PM
It was a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, get-out-of-your-seat-and-dance kind of night when the Elmsford Union Free School District Parent Teacher Student Association hosted its first virtual Karaoke Night on Feb. 19.
“Welcome everyone, it’s Friday night! We have some good songs. I think everyone is going to have a good time,” announced host and PTSA President Julia Rogers.
EUFSD community members were invited to pre-register for the evening, letting organizers know if they were going to participate and what song they would perform. When the time came, participants logged in to the Zoom session and the Watch2Gether website, where the lyrics and song list were located.
With a few clicks of a button, Ms. Rogers got the evening started with “Celebration,” by Kool & the Gang, asking everyone to sing along.
And there was a party goin’ on across everyone’s screen as participants joined in.
The virtual microphone was then passed to student Logan and her mom, board president Candice Wood, who took on the song “Crown” by Kelly Rowland.
Intermixed with the music were trivia questions focused on Black artists and musicians in recognition of Black History Month. Participants had to be quick to type the correct answers in the multiple-choice quiz into the chat feature. The first person to answer each correctly won a gift card.
Throughout the night, the performers sang in a group with numbers including “U Can’t Touch This,” by MC Hammer, “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It)” by En Vogue, “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC and “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons.
There were several talented, and brave, individuals who showcased their solo talent too.
Teacher aide Ashley Blanshaw gave a moving performance when she sang “I am Changing” by Jennifer Hudson. Ms. Rogers sang “Hold On” by Alabama Shakes and parent Jessica Bonifacio shared her beautiful version of “Stand by Me,” by Ben E. King. Students Aurora and Alex performed a duet of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and another student, Primrose, belted out “Cars that Go Boom,” by L’Trimm. Just before the evening wrapped up, one student’s aunt extraordinaire Tasha Young rocked out to “Proud Mary” by Ike and Tina Turner.
As the music faded, Ms. Rogers thanked everyone for joining the “show” on a cold winter night during winter break.
For more upcoming events and to learn more about the PTSA, visit elmsfordptsa.org.
Music and history combine in special virtual Black History Month performancePosted by Alicia Smith on 2/22/2021 12:30:00 PM
Music was an integral part of the civil rights movement. They inspired songs about the cause and used musical messages to celebrate and inspire their communities. This year, the Grady Concert Band created a virtual performance to celebrate Black History Month and honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The band created a special “Black History Month Performance: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” which was conducted by teacher Nik Campbell.
“I was trying to find ways that we could work on a piece that gave us the opportunity to demonstrate some broader connections between the music and other disciplines and contexts,” said Mr. Campbell.
Mr. Campbell said he was inspired by year’s events, including the deaths of George Floyd and Representative John Lewis, along with the enduring words from Dr. King’s about equality.
While Mr. Campbell was researching ideas and themes, he discovered that “When the Saints Go Marching In” was Dr. King’s favorite hymn.
“We represent a diverse student body,” Mr. Campbell said, “and I thought it would be a great way to carry out the meaning of Dr. King’s message by having the band pay tribute to him by performing one of his favorite songs.”
He decided to dedicate the performance to Rep. Lewis as he is someone who Mr. Campbell admired, so “it seemed to flow naturally from the theme and arc of the project. In addition to being Dr. King’s friend, Rep. Lewis was someone who carried Dr. King’s message of unity, equality and love forward for many years after MLK’s death.”
The band’s performance follows last year’s Black History Month performance, when the band performed “Battle Command” by African American composer and educator William Owens.
When Mr. Campbell explained his thinking process to the students, they reacted with enthusiasm. “Part of it was the realization that in addition to being this towering figure in American history,” Mr. Campbell said, “Dr. King was just a regular person who also enjoyed music and had favorite songs just like any of us.”
Mr. Campbell had already been teaching his students about spiritual songs and their role in the Underground Railroad, so students were already familiar with this style of music. In addition, together they listened to a recording of Louis Armstrong’s jazzy rendition.
“I was really amazed at the energy and enthusiasm of the students and by the quality of the performances they submitted,” Mr. Campbell said. “It was clear that they were taking great pride in their work.”
Students recorded themselves playing their piece and sometimes had to record it several times before they got it to their liking. Mr. Campbell then merged the sound with the video. While it is a time-consuming project, fortunately he was able to receive suggestions from fellow musicians who are part of the Carnegie Hall Music Educator’s Workshop, of which he is a member.
“It was a challenging process that involves many hours of editing, analyzing, and lining up sound wave forms in video editing software, but it’s a process I’ve come to embrace and really love,” Mr. Campbell said.
“I’m really happy with the way the whole project came together. The students were able to deliver a performance that everyone can be proud of and I think they also gained some cultural, historical context as well,” Mr. Campbell continued. “In addition to having experienced making music together on a high level, I hope that the students also gained a deeper appreciation of values like compassion, respect and empathy.”
New food distribution program continues efforts to help familiesPosted by Alicia Smith on 1/29/2021 3:00:00 PM
When a large delivery truck from Feeding Westchester arrived at Alexander Hamilton High School, maintenance staff quickly unloaded three pallets of produce. The food is being used for the Elmsford Union Free School District’s new backpack food distribution program.
The arrival of donated food on Jan. 27 is a continuation of the partnership between the Elmsford Union Free School District and Feeding Westchester. The relationship between the two entities began four years ago.
The goal of the Backpack Food Program, which began in the district early January 2021, is to have food distributed to families on a weekly basis. The first delivery saw 125 bags of food distributed.
“Any Elmsford School District families who meet the free/reduced meal status qualify for the program,” said Superintendent Marc Baiocco. “However, we will be sure to get food for any Elmsford family in need. If any of our families are interested, they may visit our website for more details and to sign up for future deliveries.”
Assisting the Elmsford School District with distributing the food is Door Dash, the popular food delivery service. It is a partnership that developed through the district’s relationship with United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Door Dash picks up the donated food, which is packed in reusable grocery bags, and delivers it to district families.
The district also collaborates with Feeding Westchester to host the Mobile Food Pantry each month.
Family Engagement Night offers parents look at timely topicsPosted by Alicia Smith on 1/26/2021 2:30:00 PM
During the last virtual Family Engagement Night on January 21, parents and guardians were invited to learn more about timely topics – the iReady assessment, Lightbridge Academy and social-emotional well-being among them.
The discussion series sets its agenda through suggestions from parents and is often hosted by the three school principals in the district.
“The agenda reflects parents’ interests,” Jeffrey Olender, principal of the Carl L. Dixson Primary School, said.
Parents were introduced to the newly opened Lightbridge Academy, an early childhood education facility in Elmsford. Director Maureen Gioio discussed details about what the facility has to offer, including before-and-after-school childcare and assistance with virtual learning. The facility is also interested in offering jobs to qualified high school students who may one day want to pursue a career in early childhood education.
Danielle Sullivan, national director, content and implementation, at Curriculum Associates, which oversees the iReady assessments, also spoke. K-12 students in the district take the online assessments three times a year. The next installment will be in early February.
“We are trying to see, based on standards, what do students know and what do they not know,” Ms. Sullivan said. “It saves teachers time to pinpoint what students need.”
The assessments provide information on where students are at a given time, the grade level where they should be and a target. Teachers can easily share the results with parents.
“Each child gets a personal roadmap,” Ms. Sullivan said.
Students take the online assessment on their own. The primary students will have two weeks to complete the upcoming tests and they will take the exams during their in-person class time, according to Mr. Olender. Virtual-only students will be allowed to make an appointment to visit the school to work on the assessment.
This is also true for Alice E. Grady students who are all-virtual, Principal Andrea Hamilton said.
For those helping their children at home, parents are encouraged to tell their child to do their best but let them work on it themselves. Younger children can divide their time into a few 30-minute sessions if necessary, and older students can work on it in more than one 45-minute session.
School officials also reminded parents to become familiar with their child’s Google Classroom.
“Google Classroom is a great, great tool to understand what your child has done and what they need to do,” in terms of assignments, Alexander Hamilton High School Principal Joseph Engelhardt said.
The final topic was social-emotional learning.
Student Assistance Counselor Alexa Mennuti defined social-emotional learning as “the skills that make us human.”
They consist of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationships and decision-making.
“Even as adults, we are still developing these skills,” Ms. Mennuti said.
As adolescents learn to manage their emotions and other attributes, there is no denying the impact that COVID-19 has had on them and their families. Changes in their routine, loss of regular contact with friends or loss of special social events to enjoy can lead to abnormal behavior, signs of depression or even substance abuse.
“It all starts with taking care of yourself,” Ms. Mennuti said. “Doing simple things that make you happy.”
In addition, parents can help their children by simply listening to them and validating their feelings.
School psychologist Rose Hoey offered suggestions on how to help students when it comes to being successful at virtual learning.
Suggestions included having students put their cell phones in another room during virtual class time so they do not become a distraction. Students should participate at least three times in each class by raising their hand or writing an answer in the chat feature. All these strategies help them be more engaged in lessons.
Other suggestions included:
- Having students sign into their class early
- take notes, which can help them retain information better
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones
- Get dressed and out of their pajamas for the school day
- Have a routine like getting up and going to bed at the same time each day
- Keep track of their schedule and assignments with a daily planner.
Taking a lunch break and getting outside is also beneficial and allows for a break from a screen too.
“Reach out to teachers and support staff if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, nervous or sad,” Ms. Hoey said.
Although recent events have had an impact, Ms. Hoey did say there is a silver lining.
“Your child will come away with additional skills and organizational methods,” she said.
Communication and COVID discussed at recent Coffee and Conversation meetingPosted by Alicia Smith on 1/15/2021 4:00:00 PM
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Marc Baiocco, took to the virtual airwaves on Jan. 13 for one of his regular Coffee and Conversation meetings with the community. Among the topics he discussed were communication and COVID-19.
“We are making sure the communications we are putting out is very salient,” Dr. Baiocco told participants.
The district sends out notifications through ConnectEd, email and Talking Points, a two-way text system that reaches participants throughout the district.
“It provides a whole level of connectivity with our parents,” Dr. Baiocco said of Talking Points. “We can communicate to a much larger community and are reaching 90% of our active community.”
Although not all of the notifications the district distributes relate to COVID-19, many of them do, and the superintendent took some time to share the latest news regarding its impact on schools and what is to come.
There is a difference, the superintendent said, when it comes to a person in isolation vs. someone who has to quarantine. Isolation means individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate themselves in their homes and refrain from interacting with other household members as much as possible for 10 days. During that time, the district reaches out to the individual to see if it can be of any assistance.
“We make sure they have a support network. We are here for them socially and emotionally,” Dr. Baiocco said. “The beauty of the hybrid model is that if a student becomes ill, they are able to go into our virtual model.”
Quarantine, on the other hand, is for someone who has come in close contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus. The superintendent does not have the authority to place someone in quarantine; rather it is the county department of health that makes that determination. The district works with the department of health, which is also responsible for conducting any contact-tracing. An individual who has been in contact with someone who tested positive, may be asked to quarantine for 10 days.
“How do we determine a close contact?” Dr. Baiocco asked. “If a child has been in contact with someone who tested positive two days prior.”
The district will inform anyone who was in contact with the positive individual for 10 minutes or more and who was less than 6 feet from that person while not wearing a mask. The district also investigates where students were in proximity to one another in the lunchroom or on buses or other crowded spaces.
“We first and foremost want to err on the side of caution,” Dr. Baiocco said. “But if the department of health tell us it’s OK, we will make a follow up call and let you know,” if it is necessary to quarantine.
The school nurses are on the frontlines of conducting the contact-tracing in the schools, and cleaning protocols have been strictly maintained.
“Together we are going to slow the spread,” Dr. Baiocco said.
The goal is to have students return to in-person learning as soon as possible. However, it all depends on testing and the distribution of the vaccine.
The district has had a testing plan ready since the state began to designate zones last fall. One issue with testing is having enough tests available to schools, and the district is working on that for when students return to in-person lessons.
“We believe this will add to the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Baiocco said of widespread distribution of the vaccine.
Other topics covered by the superintendent included the district’s Strategic Goals, which have continued to be a priority throughout the school year. Among them are:
- Learning-Curriculum alignment beginning with English language arts, followed by math and science
- Whole Child Initiative-Includes focus on mental health
- Environment-Ensuring a safe and nurturing school setting for all
- Community Partnerships-Continuing and expanding partnerships with community organizations
Finally, Dr. Baiocco discussed the upcoming budget and noted that “it is slow moving this year due to stalls at the federal level.”
“The feds denied the stimulus bill. This is a critical time for us. With the change of administration, we hope to see some stimulus passed,” he said. “We will need help, a voice, in advocating, so we can transition to in-person sooner than later.”
The next Superintendent Coffee and Conversation meeting is scheduled for May 5 at 6 p.m.
Wellness Wednesday continues with more important informationPosted by Alicia on 1/5/2021 3:00:00 PM
Children in the Elmsford Union Free School District participate in remote learning only each Wednesday. For those at Alexander Hamilton High School, the Wednesday before a school break has developed into a time for learning of a different type: taking care of one’s mental health.
For the second time, AHHS hosted a Wellness Wednesday on Dec. 23, a half-day of school before the holiday recess. Throughout the morning, students could log into a series of 45-minute sessions covering an array of topics. Among them were the Importance of Sleep; an Anxiety Reduction and Emotional Regulation Presentation; Girls, Inc. Self-Care and finally, Yoga, provided by the Break the Hold Foundation.
In the Importance of Sleep school social worker Alexa Mennuti discussed how much sleep teens need to function at their best (nine hours is ideal), the type of sleep an individual experiences (NREM and REM), and the issues, both physically and emotionally, that a lack of sleep can cause (loss of coordination, irritability and more).
“I know that seems like a lot, but it is recommended,” Ms. Mennuti said of the nine hours of sleep for teens.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sleep issues may have increased among teens who had to contend with a new routine. With changes in how they go to school, they may also face the added stress of trying to balance work and school or feel anxious about the information they see on social media and in the news. In addition, the new schedule of hybrid learning keeps them indoors more, and since sports have been canceled, they are missing out on physical activity. All of those factors can impact the quality and quantity of one’s sleep, Ms. Mennuti said.
Another thing that impacts sleep, in addition to anxiety, can be location. If students are doing all of their schoolwork in their bedroom, the brain can begin to think that this is a workspace and not be able to settle down when it comes time to go to bed. Ms. Mennuti recommended students do their work in another room, if possible.
She also encouraged students to get some physical activity whenever possible.
“When our bodies are not physically tired from moving in the day, the body and brain are not tired at night,” she said.
“Sleep has a profound impact on learning and memory,” Ms. Mennuti explained, adding that a lack of sleep can impair a person’s focus and attention, ability to consolidate information, physical health and more.
“Good sleep helps muscles grow, repairs tissue and synchronizes the body systems,” she said. “A lack of sleep causes coordination problems, it impairs immune function and can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity.”
Lack of sleep can also impact emotional health in areas like making decisions and lead to or exacerbate depression and anxiety.
When teens do not get an appropriate amount of sleep, Ms. Mennuti noted, it can lead to an increase in risky behavior and emotions can become exaggerated. It can also lead to drowsy driving.
Teens should take some time to think about their sleep habits and how they may have changed. Changing one’s attitude around sleep can help when they begin to view it as a positive. |
There are several things teens can do to get a good night’s sleep:
- Create a good sleep environment
- Try to keep the bedroom dark and cool
- Establish a sleep routine
- Avoid screen time an hour before bed
- Get regular exercise
- Pay attention to your diet and voice late-night eating
- Avoid caffeine
- Limit any daytime naps to no more than 20-45 minutes
- April 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- January 2021
- December 2020
- November 2020
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- October 2019
- September 2019
- August 2019
- June 2019
- May 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- January 2019
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018
- September 2018
- August 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- November 2017
- October 2017