Students Speak Out About Remote Learning, Masks, Covid and more
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 897
What do high school students think about protocols, masks, the risks of contracting Covid and the prospect of reverting to remote learning? SHS Alternative School Intern Michael Mancusi made some inquiries among his classmates and here is what they shared:
Are you in favor of remote learning?
Definitely not. I did not learn in remote learning last year and do not want to repeat it this year. Additionally, I could not handle the social isolation that remote learning created and it was very bad for my mental health. As the death rate is very low, I do not think it is worth going virtual again. On the other hand, I know some students have reasons to want to be virtual, such as they or a family member are considered ‘high risk’. I do have an idea for a solution to help those people. I think that people, or people who live with people, with underlying conditions should be able to go virtual, provided they show the school that they have a legitimate reason. I think it should be very important that they do inform the school of their reason, in order to prevent people from going virtual for the wrong reasons (such as to cheat on tests).
I am in favor of remote learning for now because I think although Omicron and new variants are being shown that it is not as deadly as the older variant for people who are vaccinated (and maybe unvacced) there are still risks people have at home that can make the omicron deadly and send them to the hospital furthermore it spread much faster which means it can reach more people who have these risks and I think we should be aware of that and for their safety I am in favor for remote learning for at least a little bit. I understand the cons though and the difficulty there is with going full remote.
Do you think the school is being too strict?
Yes, a little bit. I understand the reasoning behind the school’s protocols, however I do view it as a bit excessive. This is coming from someone who currently has Covid. I personally think the best option currently is for most people to get covid and develop herd immunity. I have been reading many articles about omicron, and scientists seem to think that it could end the pandemic. Due to its high transmission rate but low death/hospitalization rate, many people are being infected, however very few are dying from it. As a result, I believe the school should ease up on restrictions to allow people to acquire natural immunity. However, I acknowledge that there is much that I do not know about the virus , and therefore I do not have enough information to make an educated decision. I hope the school board takes my opinion into consideration, while also using their best judgement to decipher the best solution to this issue. -Anonymous
No. I think the current protocols are not too strict. They are fine, especially given the number of cases recently I think it is good they tighten up the protocols. I am honestly more sick of Covid being dragged on for so long now and it is partly due to people slacking off.
Do you feel safe?
To be honest, I don’t feel safe. There is nothing anyone can do to ensure 1,600 kids plus even more staff will follow all the rules. It hasn’t been happening, and I expect nothing to change. Some of my teachers and peers don’t wear masks properly or don’t follow social distancing, and it is impossible to keep a close eye on everyone at once. This is why I think a remote learning option would be beneficial.
Yes I’m not worried about getting sick.
New SFCS Team Members Expand Outreach to the Community
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1093
As we all know by now, the pandemic has not only raised concerns about our physical health. Mental health worries for children and families have compounded due to social isolation, disruption of routines and loss of community.
To address this need, Scarsdale Family Counseling Service has enriched their team of therapists who will bring skills and experience to expand SFCS's areas of expertise.
According to Executive Director James Genova, the new team will:
-Enhance their child-parent therapy services and social skills groups for children ages 5 to 11;
-Add culturally-sensitive counseling for Scarsdale’s growing Chinese and South Asian communities;
-Add expertise in working with LGBTQ+ youth;
-Expand their marriage and family therapy services;
-Enhance the parenting discussion groups and deepen their commitment to youth outreach workers in Scarsdale Middle School and Scarsdale High School.
SFCS welcomed these nine new therapists at a reception in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Library on Thursday, December 16th. They also bid farewell to Emily Vallario, who worked for SFCS for 21 years, as SFCS Assistant Director and Director of Community Services and as one of our youth outreach workers at Scarsdale Middle School. We will honor Emily for her many years of service to the Scarsdale community and wish her well in her future endeavors.
Below are bios and photos of the nine new SFCS therapists who have joined SFCS in the last few months, expanding mental health and wellbeing services in our community; more info on each of them is available on the SFCS website.
Swaroopa Dundon joined SFCS as a family therapist in October 2021. She has worked in several NYS Offices of Mental Health, day treatment programs serving clients with chronic mental health conditions. Swaroopa has experience treating clients with an array of diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, trauma, substance use and eating disorders. Swaroopa also brings a multicultural and multilingual perspective to SFCS. She has lived and worked in different parts of the world, including Hong Kong and India. She speaks several South Asian languages, including Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil, in addition to English.
Sarah Goldstein joined SFCS as a family therapist in November 2021. Sarah specializes in child-parent psychotherapy, a highly successful family intervention for young children who have experienced trauma and, as a result, are experiencing mental health, attachment, and/or behavioral problems. Through parent-child dyadic play therapy, Sarah supports families in restoring the child’s sense of safety and attachment while improving cognitive, behavioral, and social functioning. As a Scarsdale native and 2012 SHS graduate, she has an intimate understanding of our community and its families.
Josephine “Jo” Phillips joined the SFCS staff as a family therapist in December 2020. She has experience working with individuals, couples and families at all stages of the life cycle in community mental health settings. Jo specializes in treating challenging behaviors associated with adolescents, especially those impacted by moderate to severe anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse and co-occurring conditions. Jo speaks Italian, in addition to English
Jie Wu joined the SFCS staff as a therapist in March 2021. She has worked with children and families in NYS Office of Mental Health outpatient facilities and the New York City public schools. Jie is a bilingual and bicultural therapist with the ability to support families in both English and Mandarin. She is specially trained in cultural competency, as well as in treating trauma-related mental health conditions.
Ari Goldstein joins the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. In his prior work at a Rockland County community mental health clinic, he provided psychotherapy to children, adolescents and families. He also gained experience at the Child Mind Institute where he worked with children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and related learning, social and behavior problems. Ari also led and organized recreational activities and games, sports skills training, and social skills didactics.
Ashley Sirna joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. Ashley has experience serving the mental health needs of adolescents, adults and the elderly. She has worked in two other school districts, among other settings. Ashley has experience treating substance abuse and other mental health issues and has been an active advocate for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Samantha “Sam” Swanko joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the Middle School in September 2021. She also co-facilitates the Peer Leadership program for Scarsdale High School students. Sam has a unique interest and experience in treating chemical dependency and has worked with adolescents, adults and families struggling with addiction. In addition to treating mental health disorders, Sam has special training in alcohol and substance abuse counseling
Patricia “Patti” Moore joined the SFCS staff as a Youth Outreach Worker at the High School in September 2021. She has experience working with adolescents, adults and the elderly on mental health and substance abuse issues. She worked previously in crisis intervention and investigations of abuse, neglect and maltreatment of vulnerable populations. In addition to treating mental health disorders, Patti has special training in alcohol and substance abuse counseling. She has run a variety of group and individual therapy sessions.
Natalie Ramos joined SFCS staff as a youth outreach works at the High School in September 2021. She specializes in working in various youth settings including LGBTQ+ programs, respite and school-based mentorship initiatives. In her previous work on Long Island, Natalie facilitated the Gay Youth Planning Committee, providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and their allies. She has also worked with youth with serious emotional disturbances. Natalie also has experience working with youth in a school-based mentorship program, assisting them in creating academic goals, cultivating coping mechanism and developing social skills.
James Genova is the Executive Director of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service.
After Thirty Years on Death Row, Anthony Ray Hinton Tells His Story to Scarsdale Students
- Written by Sydney Piccoli
- Hits: 1364
A man who spent 30 years on death row in Alabama, after he was wrongly convicted of murder, visited Scarsdale High School on November 17, 2021.
Students had the chance to meet Anthony Ray Hinton during fifth period which was split into three sessions to allow visits with Hinton in the Scarsdale High School library, where he spoke for a short period of time and then opened the room up to a question and answer session. Although many Scarsdale High School classes wanted to attend, the facilitators of the day’s events had to limit the in-school field trip to only the most relevant classes as Hinton could only stay at SHS for a few hours. Some classes that were able to go were AT Government, Criminal Justice, and AT Art History among other humanity driven courses. In order to accommodate Hinton’s presence, dozens of chairs were set up at a social distance in the library, both on the first floor and second floor, to maximize the numbers of students who could hear Hinton’s words. Hinton was introduced by art teacher and advisor of SHS Innocence Club Beth Colleary and English teacher Kathleen McGreal, both of whom have extensive experience in the field of social justice. Scarsdale High School students wore yellow, orange, and red clothes to show Hinton that the "Sun Does Shine," which is the name of his best-selling book that journals the failures of the justice system and how to maintain hope in the most dismal of situations.
After a welcoming introduction, Hinton gave an impassioned speech, telling SHS students that when he was incarcerated, he started a book club which helped him maintain his composure through the years he was wrongly convicted. He discussed the power of having an imagination, which he would often use to escape during the hardest days he spent in prison. Hinton offered a connection to the contemporary world, shockingly asserting that racism is currently worse than when he was a child in Birmingham, Alabama. After a speech filled with inspiring and courageous sentiments, a few students asked Hinton questions; How did you keep faith while being incarcerated? What lessons did you take away from your experiences? How do you think we, as a world, need to combat institutionalized racism? Hinto answered that the key is simply going up to a stranger, especially one of a different race, and having a conservation. He told dozens of students and faculty that by doing so, you will discover how many similarities you have despite the apparent differences.
Hinton words resonated with the students and teachers who were lucky enough to be in his presence. “I really enjoyed hearing him speak in-person because I felt a lot more connected to what he was saying when it wasn’t through a computer screen and also him answering the students questions directly made it a lot more impactful for me...I think everyone in that room was just as impacted by his word as I was which is pretty astounding,” remarked SHS junior Charlotte Davis. “I really liked how personal it felt...and it felt like he was giving his story in a way that felt like he was giving advice to a friend. I think his words had the effect of collectively uplifting peoples’ spirits,” added SHS junior Akhil Srivastava.
On SHS’s annual Global Citizenship Day, SHS’ students heard from the founders of Hudson Link, a non-profit organization that provides college education to those currently or formerly behind bars and seeks to create a positive impact. On Hinton’s behalf, Scarsdale High School students collected fifty boxes of food filled with pasta, sauce, spreads, canned vegetables, and more to be donated to the individuals Hudson Link helps—in addition to food, the boxes contained other goods, including thermal gear (hats, gloves) and Scarsdale mementos. A singular bag of food can serve four individuals, so in-total SHS will help 200 people in-need this season.
Last year , during COVID-19, Hinton visited Scarsdale High School through Zoom, telling his story for the first time. The visit sparked impassioned discussion in classrooms all around Scarsdale High School about the social justice system and the importance of helping others. A local bookstore, Bronx River Books in the Scarsdale Village, even worked to promote Hinton’s book The Sun Does Shine and offered signed copies to residents. Nearly a year later, Hinton made a special request to his assistant to attend SHS—this time in-person—to thank the students and teachers for hearing his story and supporting his mission to improve the lives of individuals across the United States.
Hinton’s kindness and generosity can be a lesson for all ages— “Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me....I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice,” he writes in his book. As Scarsdale High School seeks to create change-makers, embracing a motto of Non-Sibi, it is heartwarming to see students foster such a close connection with activists like Hinton, but also with the greater community that needs our collective help.
Latimer Tests Positive for COVID, NYS Imposes Mask Mandate
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1373
We noticed the Westchester County Executive George Latimer cancelled his weekly briefing for Monday December13 and now we know why. This in from his Communications Director Catherine Cioffi:
“Earlier today, Westchester County Executive George Latimer tested positive for COVID-19. The County Executive sought out a test after hearing that he was exposed at a community event. The County Executive is home in isolation, and is continuing to carry out the work of the Government from his residence. He is grateful his symptoms are mild thanks to his COVID-19 vaccinations.”
Also today, Westchester County imposed a mask mandate for all indoor venues. Here are the details from County Legislator Ben Boykin:
"On December 10, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.
In all public spaces that do not have vaccine requirements, any person, past their second birthday and medically able to tolerate a face covering, must wear an appropriate mask while in any indoor place, regardless of vaccination status.
This action is designed to address the winter surge comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide and is in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission.
The measure will remain in effect through January 15, 2022 at which time the State will evaluate next steps.
The requirement applies to all non-private residences, including office spaces. If the office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, everyone must wear masks at all times regardless of vaccination status except when eating, drinking, or alone in an enclosed room.
Patrons of eating and drinking establishments can remove their masks only while they are actively eating or drinking, at which time appropriate social distancing measures, proper air ventilation, and filtration methods are highly recommended."
From what we've seen, transmission rates are on the rise, but we have not heard of any serious illnesses.
Recreation Department Presents Proposal for Pop-Up Dog Parks
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 930
When we last covered the possibility of a dog park in Scarsdale, the response from the public was so negative that we called the article, “Not in My Backyard: Residents Growl About Proposed Dog Park.”
That was November 2018 after the Village had retained consultants JMC to examine the feasibility of a dog park at the Weinberg Nature Center. At the time, the Quaker Ridge Neighborhood Association and residents who live nearby had a host of reasons for why this site should be turned down. They raised concerns about traffic on Mamaroneck Road, preservation of wildlife at the nature center, tree clearing to create parking, the size of the site, use by people who don’t live in Scarsdale, barking and dog waste.
Similar arguments were made against building a dog park at Drake Park and Crossway Fields.
However, with dog owners pining for a place to meet and run their dogs, the Village continued to pursue options and eventually began discussions with the NYS Department of Transportation on the feasibility of creating a dog park by licensing a site between Mamaroneck Road and the north exit ramp of the Hutchinson River Parkway. The Village submitted a concept plan to the DOT in July 19 which would not involve tearing down trees. The proposed site would be about one acre in size.
Now two and half years later, the Department of Transportation has still not approved the plan due to the proximity to the parkway. The DOT also asked for the entire site to be fenced in. According to Superintendent Coleman, the Village plans to resubmit the application with the proposed changes. Coleman expected a decision in two months.
But resident Josh Frankel said he recently spoke to someone at the NYS DOT and concluded that it is “highly unlikely that the state is going to change their mind because the site is too close to the Hutch.” Frankel said, “You are barking up the wrong tree here.” He said the Village would get resistance from “folks on Mamaroneck Road and Colonial Road.” He suggested that the Village look into building the dog park at the maintenance facility where he believes there is ample room for a dog park and parking.
While the Village continues to pursue a permanent dog park, Recreation Superintendent Brian Gray presented an alternative idea. He suggested that the Village consider building temporary or pop up dog parks that could be constructed using temporary materials and stand for a month or two. The sites would require an 80 X 80 foot area, less than the acre for a permanent site.
The four potential sites he presented were Drake Park, George Field Park, the Freightway Garage and the lower parking lot at Village Hall.
He proposed three fencing options and associated costs that you can see below. In addition to the fencing, the Village would need to rent porta johns, purchase waste stations for disposal of dog waste and synthetic turf if the parks were built on concrete surfaces.
The proposal elicited many comments.
Trustee Lena Crandall asked to get estimates of costs for monitoring of the parks, clean-ups and enforcement of use by people with dog licenses. About the three scenarios for fencing, she favored “C” because it is easier to set up. She wondered if the Village could rent the equipment out when it was not in use to help to fund the parks. About alternative proposed sites she said, “about Chase Park I am concerned about parking. You can’t find a parking space in the Village during the week or on weekends.” And about George Field, she said, “I am against a permanent installation in George Field because it’s for flood mitigation and I would not want dog waste getting into our water system.” She also called for dog owners to buy licenses.
Trustee Whitestone agreed. He said, “The number of dog licenses has been about 400 in the last ten years – and is now at 268 – which is appreciably down.”
Trustee Ahuja asked, “Why are we not focusing on a permanent solution? This is time consuming so let’s look for a permanent place for a dog park.”
Trustee Arest said, “For the pop ups, we need enforcement and restrictions for use.”
Greenacres Neighborhood Association President Andrew Sereysky spoke in favor of a dog park and said, “We started on this journey six years ago.” He said SNAP was unanimously in favor of a park, but “it has been slow going.” He asked if the pool complex could be considered for use from Labor Day to Memorial Day. He said, “what are the alternate plans if we don’t get approval from the state for the Hutchinson River site.” He also discussed an event that the GNA held in George Field Park for dogs a few years ago. He said, “I think the idea of a pop up dog park is interesting, I am just not sure how you go about it.”
Madelaine Eppenstein said, “I applaud the effort and hope there is progress,” and Bob Harrison said, “I support this idea.” Susan Douglass heartily supported the idea and asked if the fees residents pay for dog licenses could be used to build a dog park. She also noted that the garbage bins for dog waste in Scarsdale are always overflowing.
Discussing the use of other locations, Superintendent Gray said, “The pool is a good site but the pools are half full (of water) year round – if something fell in it would not get out. We also have irrigation – and that could be damaged with the fence construction. The sanitation lot is smaller – we were looking for sites that were an acre or more in size.”
NIMBY opposition remains. Carol Schechner said, “I live downhill from Drake Park – I was not happy to see it in the popup scenarios. The concern about dog waste is real – dog waste needs to be cleaned up daily. Dog parks attract rodents.”
Mayor Jane Veron concluded the conversation by saying, “In terms of next steps I will ask staff to come back to us with a proposal that seems right based on this input.”