Dear PHCS Families,
A school closure of potentially indeterminant duration is uncharted territory and unprecedented for both families and schools. Both school and home are bound to have many questions. We will work through the answers together.
Like seeing storm clouds brewing on the horizon, the PHCS staff and I were anticipating that the day was approaching when we would have to close due to the Coronavirus, and we had begun taking proactive steps to be prepared. We did not, however, anticipate that the closure would be so soon and without an opportunity for us to forewarn the students and families.
Yesterday, I was called into an emergency meeting of the district superintendents in St. Lawrence County. Dr. Olzenak-McGuire (Director of Public Health) and Dr. Williams (Physician and Chair of St. Lawrence Health Systems Emergency Response Team) explained to us how the State and County health systems lack a sufficient number of ICU beds and ventilators to respond to the exponential growth of the Coronavirus if left unchecked, as witnessed in communities around the globe. If immediate action was not taken to create social distancing, the health system’s lack of capacity would risk it being overwhelmed, and the potential to die from this virus would drastically increase among the most vulnerable of our family, friends, and neighbors. The superintendents’ response was a unanimous decision to support this county-wide state of emergency, preemptively closing schools, slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, and allowing the health system to cope when the virus reaches our part of the state (and there is little doubt that we will begin seeing confirmed cases in St. Lawrence County).
There is good news too - We were not caught completely off-guard; our many meetings about instruction and food delivery, the gathering of resources, and early preparations to switch from in-school brick and mortar instruction to in-home distance and online learning will serve us well. The outpouring of support and inquiries of “How can I help?” and “What can I do?” since the closure announcement speak volumes about our community. It is heartening to see the towns of Hopkinton and Parishville, law enforcement, other school districts, parents, staff, and our Board of Education rally around our school during this crisis. This is also our first year with a Community Schools Coordinator, whose inter-agency connections and access to resources will be called into immediate service.
In the coming days, we will undoubtedly stumble. Please be patient as we work to finalize plans and adapt to a new system of delivering instruction remotely. We will problem-solve together as issues arise. The administrative team and I are going to take care of and support the PHCS Staff, so that they can concentrate on the health, safety, food security, mental health, and instruction of our children.
I am confident that one day we will look back on this event, much like the Ice Storm, and be proud of how our community improvised and found creative ways to provide support to one another. I recognize what a resilient, self-reliant, and look-out-for-one-another kind of community in which I am blessed to work. As our Public Health officials begin instituting additional guidelines of social distancing, I know you need no urging to reach out to those in need, to call your elderly neighbors, text that single parent, or send an email checking on friends and relatives who live alone. It is just what our community does. We will be setting up a mechanism for you to alert us to those in our school community who may be in need.
We will take this week to assess our needs and complete our plans for instruction and coordinate food deliveries, which will start on Monday, March 23rd.
I will work to keep you updated throughout the crisis.
All my best,
Dr. William Collins
Superintendent of Schools, PHCS