Friday, March 27, 2020

Unprecedented, Uncharted, Unusual

We are in an extraordinary time of uncertainty, worry, and caution. Perhaps we are also in an unprecedented time of strength, hope, and optimism. Certainly, the signs of neighbors supporting one another, co-workers checking on each other, and communication without physical proximity suggests we are adapting. This blog would be naïve to stray from the current circumstances and is intended to provide updated information.

Since beginning this blog earlier today, NYS Governor Andrew Coumo has announced an update to the date of school building closures to a planned return of Wednesday, April 15, 2020. This extends the previous date from NYS and that of the previously identified date from the Onondaga County Executive’s office. This is one day later than the date previously communicated.


Distribution of meals began almost immediately from the time school was no longer in a typical session. Our Food Services staff could not have sprung into action more quickly. The behind the scenes preparation, while part of a routine day, became much more than regular in the preparation, sorting, packaging, and staging of  meals in a “to go” fashion. Please keep our Food Services staff in your thoughts and don’t miss the opportunity to thank them in the future.

Initially, the combination of pick-up and delivery had a greater percentage of “drive-up” participants being met by runners bringing two meals per child for the duration of that period. The approach followed social distancing parameters as vehicles stopped at the front entrance and pulled out after loading of trunks. The scene was a powerful statement of our community and school working together.

Since that time, there is a delivery system in place for 100% of the recipients. There are now 500 students registered with meals distributed for nine days of meals totaling 7,912 meals at this writing. While you have seen WG buses throughout neighborhoods for years, they are now helping with meals and sustaining supports for our families. Be sure to wave to one of our outstanding Transportation staff when they travel by you throughout delivery days. They are doing wonderful work! For information and updates on food distribution, click here.


A sign-up system resulted in many requests for technology support as we transitioned learning from classrooms to homes. The drive-up surge from day one was met with appreciation and communication of ease. From West Genesee Street it appeared daunting, however the multi-line system and pick-up times established proved effective. The Technology Department (donned in their running shoes!) made the process quick and efficient. There is a rumor they are now preparing to enter as a team in a future 5K event!

The system at the Technology Department between WGHS and Camillus Commons is no longer operational as the requests diminished greatly. To date, 1,500 Chromebooks, 60 laptops, and a few “hot spots” have been provided. An increase in mobile devices for teaching staff continues the effort of a new instructional approach. Thank you to our Technology Department!

Teaching and Learning

Our staff has shifted from the typical creativity and engagement of their experience to a new way of approaching teaching and learning. To offer perspective, think of a basketball game moved to a pool, a game of catch to a tightrope, a bicycle ride on an ice rink; the task remains the same under very different terrain. The planning and communication itself required a new approach through distance approach and creative methods.

The result has included new habits of asynchronous learning, landing pages of learning experiences, and in-time connections through live methods such as Zoom.  Thank you to all of our teaching and administrative staff for mobilizing their efforts to continue learning in an unprecedented time. Click here to access the Online Learning Portal. 

As important, thank you to parents, guardians, older siblings and congratulations to our students for managing the shifts that have occurred. It is no less daunting to you that “classrooms” have entered your homes. There is no replacement for in-person, real-time, targeted learning experiences that are part of our classrooms every day. It is the effort and resiliency in homes, however, that is the catalyst for continued movement forward that serves learning today and will help the eventual transition upon the reopening of schools. Well done Wildcats!


Our custodial crew and buildings/grounds workers have been active throughout the year and focused both prior to and following the health related shifts. Their work continues the deep cleaning and disinfecting of buildings that, while ongoing, is accessible at a greater rate with our classrooms, hallways, and large group areas vacant. They support the efforts above (food, technology, etc.) while providing a targeted focus to areas not as typically available to them. Thank you to our crews for their work to keep us safe and healthy prior to this health crisis and in anticipation of our eventual return.

Buildings are closed, as mentioned. This includes school property and access to playgrounds, fields, and related facilities. You will see signs at entry points as measures to curtail activity. This is done unapologetically, with the hope of our community understanding it as a responsible approach. Our social distancing and responsible approach is seen in the effort of every individual. Our temporary closure of facilities is to support that message of responsibility and is offered as a respectful reminder.


The news may not be your first preference during a time when we can feel inundated with information and overloaded with facts. Two ways to understand recent data is in press conferences held regularly by NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon. They are valuable resources that include updated parameters of good practice for all to follow.

The West Genesee website has a plethora of resources that have been gathered in past weeks. These include topics of prevention, symptoms, restrictions, timelines, and more.  Recent resources that have come to my attention that are worth sharing. They are:

Feeling Stressed About Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Managing Anxiety in an Anxiety-Provoking Situation 
New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) 

OMH has also created the New York State Emotional Support Line staffed by specially trained volunteers who can help you. Call 1-844-863-9314.

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
National Association of School Psychologists

Care for Caregivers: Tips for Families and Educators
National Association of School Psychologists

Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA)

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)/ 1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues

New York State Office of Mental Health Crisis Counselors - Call 1-800-273- TALK or text GOT5 to 741741.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - trained crisis workers, 24/7, confidential, connects to nearest center

Our staff, including counselors, school psychologists, and social workers remain available to you should you need additional support or resources. Please reference our website for contact information.


Our house has two of my children unexpectedly returning in the closure of their colleges. While it is wonderful to have them home, it is an unexpected new routine of meals, space, activity, and more. This is particularly true as we remain steadfast to social distancing and work within our home for our jobs and school. It isn’t easy for anyone and we continue to work together to make it work. “Game nights” each evening allow us to escape a bit (to a world of healthy competitiveness!) and ease the strain that is our current circumstances.

Yesterday, my wife shared with me a touching and powerful message of hope. It is a group of Nashville singers performing a “cell phone choir”. It Is Well With My Soul - The Nashville Studio Singer Community Virtual Cellphone Choir - arranged by David Wise is a phenomenal group of famous musicians who have come together, but not in a traditional way. This choir honored social distancing and current health parameters while creating a unique togetherness.

It is musically remarkable, technically impressive, and logistically surprising. More, it transcended any one culture, particular religion, or diverse and celebrated ethnicity, and instead is the true spirit of our togetherness and support for each other. Let it be a message of hope, calm, and perseverance. Let it touch our minds, our hearts, and let it be well within our souls.

Take care Wildcats!