Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
September 10, 2020

School is starting again for New York’s 2.6 million public school children. While back to school may look different this year, the promise and possibilities remain no matter the mode of instruction. If you are a parent, guardian, or caregiver of a school-aged child, you may be wondering how to best prepare or support your child during this time. You can help your child by:

  • talking with them about their experiences and praising efforts, helping to build a sense of competence and confidence
  • communicating with teachers about their child’s performance, interests, or concerns
  • setting academic expectations and achievable goals, including helping to plan a schedule so they learn to balance schoolwork with other responsibilities and activities
  • instilling self-discipline by teaching them to think first before acting on impulse and to think about the consequences of their actions (particularly online) and,
  • encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, where available, to help develop a more well-rounded individual.

As it relates to the coronavirus, it is important to reinforce health and safety measures whether your child is in-person, remote or hybrid. Please remind your children that they must wear a mask and practice physical distancing if attending school in-person and (regardless of in-person or remote) should continue to practice good hygiene and handwashing. As a parent, please avoid traveling to high positivity rate states – you can find those states at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory.

We know that some of our students have greater needs right now. For some, they may have social-emotional needs related to COVID-19, physical distancing and not seeing their friends or families. For others, it may be ensuring that they have enough food to eat, or technology to be able to access online learning and critical interactions with their peers and teachers during remote learning or physical distancing.

It is up to us, adults, to challenge our students to learn and make sure that they seize the extraordinary opportunities schools offer. Just consider what this means for students.

Today’s kindergarten class is the graduating class of 2033. This means that some of us will be retiring as they leave high school, and our graduating seniors will be entering their 30s, with families of their own and careers across the region, state, and nation.

For our high school seniors, this is the last 10 months of a 13-year journey of learning and discovery. They are preparing for life outside of high school, whether that may be post-secondary education, a career, or the armed services. For others, this may be the first time they will read a book, master math concepts, meet a lifelong friend or future spouse, or discover a hidden talent or passion.

Students entering schools this month are returning to learning at a very difficult time in the short-term, but education is a means to provide life-changing experiences in the long-term.

For our parents and guardians, I ask for continued patience as reopen of our schools. School districts throughout Columbia, Greene and Rensselaer counties are navigating this crisis to the best of their ability, based on state guidance and in collaboration with the BOCES, county health departments and other groups. We ask that you be kind to each other and try not to be perfect as there is nothing perfect about this situation.

The start of a new school year represents hope for a better future and the ability to change a life and make a difference in the world. This is perhaps truer now than ever before. We need to provide hope of what is possible, and life beyond COVID-19. This is a new beginning for our students to learn, get inspired and explore the possibilities of a lifetime – from learning acceptance and tolerance and leadership to revealing talents and how to overcome adversity. Thank you for being partners in their education and continued development.

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