Sunday, Aug 07th

DSCN1857Each year, the SHS senior class holds an annual chalking event early in the school year. This year at Scarsdale High School, the seniors were as enthusiastic as ever. The seniors arrived at 7:00 on September 15 to get a spot and start working on their masterpieces!

Each group chose an area for their chalk art. Each piece was intricate and thought out, and seniors used different colors, blended the chalk with their hands, and included clever phrases and pictures. Many of the phrases incorporated the class graduation year, 22 (2022). Some phrases included "Be2t For La2t" and "Keep it Cla22y". The event was a great teamwork activity to launch the senior’s last year in Scarsdale.

See photos from the event below:

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Photos by Sophia Albert

gearTwo scrimmages in a row. Two quickfire goals to start both matches. Two more days until the opening match. The Varsity A soccer team, after a few strong training sessions following tryouts, wasted no time getting up to match-fitness ahead of the 2021 season. Preseason friendlies against Eastchester, North Rockland, and Iona Prep were lined up, but only the first two matches were able to be played.

The Monday match at Eastchester and the Tuesday clash at Butler Field, despite their less-competitive-than-usual nature, showed there are plenty of goals in this Raiders team, finding the back of the net six total times across the two matches. Waking up on Wednesday, the team was prepared to play their final preseason match ahead of Friday’s season opener 30 miles away against Mahopac.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida proved to be its own type of storm. The wind came but did not roar, whereas the rain gradually started to come down at an intensity with which the soccer team approaches every match. By the time the school day ended on Wednesday, so too did the hopes of playing that third scrimmage. The onslaught of rain led to unplayable conditions, though that was just the beginning.

From Wednesday evening to Thursday morning, streets turned into rivers; fields turned into lakes; the final practice scheduled for Thursday before the season opener was cancelled. Thus, the Raiders had to enter their season opener following two days apart from the team. And, even though two days does not seem like much, fine margins such as missing extra days of practice can be decisive over the course of a season where the games come thick and fast.

On Friday, the team embarked on the nearly-hour-long bus ride up to Mahopac. The Raiders showed up over one hour early, so they took to the grass fields on the side of the main stadium to warm up, settle nerves, and get the blood flowing.

With 15 seniors on the team and 17 returning players from last season, a sense of a strong bond throughout the team was not difficult to forge. Even so, keeping that close-knit mentality once the starting whistle blows is not an easy task. Nonetheless, the Raiders were able to do so admirably.

Despite the match ending 0-0, it was clear that the Scarsdale team had a tremendous understanding of each other. Intricate attacking runs were made. Players knew where their teammates were at all times. Possession was dominated by the Raiders. Mahopac touches on the ball were few and far between. The opposition post was rattled and their goalie was forced into making a few spectacular saves to prevent Scarsdale from taking a victory back home. Nonetheless, it was clear the Raiders were the dominant side. Mahopac rarely, if at all, caused any trouble for a composed Rowan Haffner in the Scarsdale goal.

Even though the high school game does not have the analytics to give an exact statistic for possession, if possession percentages were calculated, they would likely show that Scarsdale had the ball for upwards of 75-80% of the match.

Senior midfielder Eli Gelblum echoed this notion, saying, “I think the team was both moving the ball well and pressing nicely as a unit. Countless times, we worked together to force a bad pass or win the ball back, something that we should definitely work to continue doing.”

fenceHe also emphasized the importance of not only improving finishing technique, but also having an “even greater hunger” to score.

Gelblum also sees the togetherness within the squad, stating, “The chemistry on our team is amazing, and it shows on the field in the form of our great communication and overall cohesive play.”

The result of a tie was not ideal, though repeating strong, united performances will yield victories if there is just that extra clinical edge to attacking moves. However, do not be surprised in the slightest if the goal-scoring woes from the season opener briskly become an anomalous memory. The chemistry that flows within the team makes for an exciting season to come, with little blips able to be remedied in training.

kidsmasksSchool Superintendent Thomas Hagerman updated the community on the district’s plans for the fall this week. He explained, that in the absence of any direction from the Governor and the NYS Health Department, the district is currently basing their decisions on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The headline is that school will be in person this year and students will be required to wear masks indoors.

Here are the specifics from Dr. Hagerman:

All students are expected to attend school in person, five days a week. We will be utilizing our schools’ regular, pre-pandemic schedules. These schedules can be found in the student handbook for each building.

Hybrid instruction will not be used this year.

Remote/Virtual instruction will be employed only in emergent situations if/when a full class is required to quarantine/isolate, or if the State or County closes our schools due to a severe outbreak.

Activities, extracurriculars, and athletics are scheduled to proceed according to pre-pandemic practices. Health and safety protocols to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19 are being finalized in accordance with CDC guidance for schools. The AAP guidance will also be used to inform our work for youth sports and physical activity. The protocols will be posted on the Scarsdale High School Athletics website and communicated to participants and their families as they are completed.

Per CDC guidance, all individuals will be expected to wear face coverings/masks while inside District facilities and on District transportation, regardless of vaccination status, starting at the beginning of the school year. This is the same practice as last school year.

Masks will not be required outdoors, although unvaccinated individuals will be encouraged to wear them at all times.

Standard health/safety mitigation strategies from last year will continue into the year ahead, including cleaning/disinfecting protocols; physical distancing, to the extent possible; handwashing and respiratory hygiene; contact tracing; and the like.
The Scarsdale Public Schools will also continue to seek out and offer vaccination opportunities/information and COVID-19 screening testing.

What do parents think of the new guidelines?

Sarah Hopkins said, “I am thrilled school will be full-time, and not "hybrid." I am disappointed the district has not led with requiring vaccinations for all staff and teachers. Vaccinations, not masking, are the strongest mitigators of risk. I do not understand why the district continues to promote disinfection of buildings when this has been wholly unnecessary and unscientific.

As we enter the second school year of masking young children, it’s worth noting W.H.O. and C.D.C./A.A.P. are in total disagreement on this issue. Many similar countries do not enforce masking in schools and there is no evidence of a net benefit. The CDC based its decision to recommend masks even for vaccinated individuals on a study of sex parties in Provincetown, MA. Hardly analogous to schools! Emphasizing masking over vaccines make vaccines appear less essential and powerful than they are. These vaccines are nothing short of miraculous, and we should be doing everything in our power to vaccinate as many adults as possible.

It’s also worth noting the district chose not to follow the AAPs advice last summer to keep schools fully open, even if it meant not distancing. Why it has now decided to follow AAP was not explained.

Lastly, I had hoped the district would address mental health issues head on. Students have suffered this year, there are ample data to demonstrate that. I had hoped we would have a plan in place to help kids as they reenter full-time school.”

Diane Gurden added, “I plan to go with the flow as long as the words "hybrid" or "remote" do not surface. I also hope that we regularly have check-ins, since the environment is so dynamic from both a variant and vaccination level perspective, and that we have transparency related to why decisions are being made or changed. Since the environment is so complex, leveraging the diverse medical expertise in the community would benefit us all, so I hope that we do more of that this year.”

What do you think of the district’s plans? Please comment below.

virtualmeetingsOne of the unexpected outcomes of the COVID crisis was the transition of public meetings from in-person to virtual, and the ability of the public to participate and comment remotely. Though this clearly increased public involvement, it also lengthened the meetings, with some Board meetings extending late into the night.

Now that the Governor’s Executive order permitting virtual public meetings has expired, the Scarsdale Board of Education has reverted to its prior policies and virtual public comments are no longer allowed.

At the Board’s August 19 meeting both the League of Women Voters and the Middle School’s PTA leadership read statements urging the Board to permit virtual public comments. They cited the benefits of receiving more feedback and facilitating “robust public engagement.” Allowing people to comment remotely made it possible for people who were unable to attend the meetings in person to be a part of the process.

Board President Karen Ceske addressed the issue and led a discussion about the board’s policy at the meeting. She explained that they had conferred with their attorney who said that four Board policies would need to be amended to permit virtual public comment.

She said “The Board recognizes its responsibility to hear and respond to public comments and therefore encourages public participation at board meetings. Members of the public have raised the issue of the board allowing for remote public comment at Board meetings. Last year’s board discussed and made an amendment to board policy on one aspect of public participation and that was time. In consulting with our attorney several board policies would need to be amended.”

Ceske recommended that this work be done by a board committee to address the topic of public comment. She asked the board if there was interest in looking at these policies to adapt them for remote public participation.

Several board members agreed to the idea of a committee, but Board member Ron Schulhof asked that virtual comments could be permitted until the new policies are adopted. Dr. Hagerman said Board policies now prohibit this but the board can elect to suspend its own policies at a board meeting. He suggested adding the item to the agenda at the September 20, 2021 meeting and voting in the first half of the meeting to allow virtual public comment during the second public comments period at that meeting.

After considerable discussion the Board decided to form a board subcommittee to make recommendations to amend the policy, and Karen Ceske, Ron Schulholf and Jessica Resnick-Ault agreed to serve on it.

For the next meeting, they agreed to add the item to their agenda which would allow them to suspend the usual rules for that meeting only. If it passes, they will permit virtual public comment during the second half of that meeting.

Here are statements from the Scarsdale Middle School PTA Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale advocating for virtual public comments.

Scarsdale Middle School PTA Executive Committee

The Scarsdale Middle School PTA Executive Committee (“SMS PTA EC”) strongly encourages the Board of Education (the “Board”) to allow remote public comment during the “Hearing from Those Present” section of its meetings.

The SMS PTA EC believes that robust, active and diverse public engagement and participation are essential to the Board’s process. In the 2020-21 school year, the incorporation of remote public comment further expanded community engagement on district issues.

The restoration of remote public comment would allow middle school parents, who may be unable to attend the Board’s evening meetings in-person, to more fully engage in district issues and publicly participate in meetings. The SMS PTA EC hopes that the Board reinstates remote public comment in order to increase accessibility and to hear from a more diverse group of voices.


The Scarsdale Middle School PTA Executive Committee

Leah Dembitzer, President
Deb Lichtenstein, President Elect
Ophira Cukierman, Treasurer
Sam Carter, Secretary
Yi Yang, VP Membership and Directory
Stephanie Klingsberg, VP Programming
Lori Harrison, VP School Events and Initiatives

League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

I am Alissa Baum President of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, and I am speaking on behalf of the League Board of Directors.
The League’s position is that the Open Meeting Law allows remote public comment.

As the League stated publicly on June 21, 2021: "One of the League’s central missions is to promote the public’s active participation in government. The League has recognized and supported the School Board’s efforts to increase accessibility to the community through its coffees, listening sessions, and attendance at community events. Maintaining virtual public comment is one more avenue through which the School Board can broaden the public’s access to and participation in School Board meetings."

Furthermore, the League has continuously advocated that a more complete picture of community feedback, combined with relevant expert opinions and research, will serve to enhance Board decisions on complex issues and their implementation. This will then serve to facilitate community understanding and appreciation of Scarsdale schools. Remote public comment is a novel method of outreach discovered during the past 18 months that serves that end.

We understand that the advisory opinion recently issued by New York State’s Committee on Open Government makes clear that government officials, such as school board members, can participate in public meetings by video conference so long as certain statutory requirements are met. That advisory opinion does not prohibit virtual public comment.

The advisory opinion explains that the “fundamental premise of the Open Meetings Law is that any person who is interested in the deliberations of a public body is permitted to view and listen to such deliberations as they occur.” Thus, the advisory opinion finds that, to fulfill this premise, the public must be able to view a public meeting “at any site” at which a Board member is participating.

With regard to the participation of those who are not Board members, the advisory opinion states that, “the Open Meetings Law does not prohibit a public body from permitting invited guests (i.e., anyone who is not a member of the public body, but who has been asked to actively participate in the meeting) to speak or testify using a remote access platform."

The School Board has the right to invite anyone, including the public, to speak at a Board meeting using a remote access platform. In today’s meeting, it is simply choosing not to do so. This is counter to the very essence of the Open Meetings Law, which seeks to ensure robust public engagement with elected bodies. It is also counter to the support of public engagement to which the League subscribes and defends. It defies basic logic to allow Board Members to comment virtually but not the public. The League Board once again respectfully requests that the Board reconsider its decision denying the public the opportunity to comment at meetings virtually.

SVAC3In May, US News reported that a database maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education indicated that more than 360 public and private colleges across the U.S. will require students to get a coronavirus vaccine, and experts expect more schools to follow suit. The State University of New York is also requiring students to be immunized but Governor Cuomo cautioned, “They (the FDA) would have to give it full approval before September, otherwise SUNY, CUNY could not mandate. If it doesn't have the full approval, you cannot legally mandate … we believe they will do that in the near future.”

What about the state’s public schools? Can they require all students 12 and up along with teachers and staff to be vaccinated? Afterall, a whole range of vaccines are now required including those against hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Polio, Chicken pox and more. Why not COVID?

Apparently it’s not so simple. Since the COVID vaccines currently hold only an emergency use authorization (EUA), they have not undergone the full FDA approval process. Therefore, individuals have the right to accept or approve the vaccines. Without FDA approval, the state cannot require school children to be vaccinated before returning to school.

Scarsdale Schools Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach explained it this way: “The State has always legislated which vaccines were required for school attendance. Given that school is compulsory and, at this time, Gov. Cuomo has indicated there would be no virtual option next year, requiring eligible students to vaccinate would restrict non-vaccinated students from compulsory education. This is a topic that is currently being discussed and I am sure there will be debate on a State level around the topic. We do not feel the school district has the authority to require vaccines above and beyond the law. Contextually, the vaccine is also being used under emergency use approval which complicates matters.”

We asked Rauschenbach if there is any way the state could require kids to be vaccinated and he said, “The State could require it by legislation, I am not sure that the EUA is a legal barrier to passing legislation, but it certainly makes things more complicated. I assume there would be legal challenges if the State approved a mandated vaccine operating under a EUA.”

So for now, the choice to vaccinate kids ages 12 and up is yours. However, with the more infectious Delta variant on the rise, the situation is changing rapidly and new rules may be made before the opening of school.

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