COVID-19 UPDATE: Teachers Prepare “Just In Case” Homework

The Liberty Central School District is prepared to meet the needs of our students and staff in the event of a school closure as a result of COVID-19.

There have been no reports of coronavirus in the Liberty community, but as a precaution teachers will send students home with packets of homework on Monday, March 16. Middle and High School students will also receive instructions on how to complete work electronically. Please set the packet aside; it only needs to be done if Liberty schools are closed for a period of two weeks or longer.

If you are a parent or guardian of a middle or high school student and you do not have internet access, please call 845-292-5400, ext 2031 during school hours so we can make sure your child has academic materials.

We thank you for  your understanding and patience as we all work to keep students safe and educated during this challenging health situation. We will continue to keep our parents and guardians informed through our website, Facebook page, and school messaging system.

SUPERINTENDENT UPDATE: COVID-19 and district preparedness (March 12 update)

As we continue to monitor developments regarding coronavirus COVID-19, I want to provide you with some additional updates. There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our school community, but we are learning more every day about this evolving public health issue. Please be assured that we are being proactive in our planning as we prepare for possible disruptions to our instructional program, including a school closure.

What happens if a student or staff member has COVID-19?

In the event we are notified that a student or staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the school or schools associated with that case would be required to close for an initial period of 24 hours. If that happens, the Liberty Central School District would work closely with the NYS and the Sullivan County health departments during those 24-hours to determine precautionary actions and the scope and duration of any closure. 

These decisions will be made on a case by case basis, as necessary, and the district will communicate this information immediately to all our Liberty families.

Proactive Measures

Liberty teachers will spend Friday, March 13, a scheduled superintendent’s conference day and a day off for students, to compile 10 days of work (two weeks) for their students should an extended closure take place. 

This work will be sent home with students on Monday, March 16. Please set this work aside for completion in the event of an extended school closure.

  • For our elementary students the work will include a packet of printed worksheets and reading assignments.
  • Our middle and high school students all have Chromebooks, so their work will be available digitally via Google Classroom. Some middle and high school teachers may also elect to provide their students with printed assignments.

If you are a parent or guardian of a middle or high school student and you do not have internet access, please call 845-292-5400, ext 2031 so we can make sure your child has academic materials.

Meanwhile, we continue steps to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. Here are some of the ways we are addressing COVID-19 concerns:

  • We are in continued conversations with county and state health officials and are following the recommendations of these experts.
  • Our school nurses are on alert for flu-like symptoms, cough, fever and other symptoms.
  • We have provided resources on proper handwashing and encouraged faculty and staff to remind students about the importance of hygiene. We have also asked them to limit sharing between students and to allow extra time for handwashing.
  • Rolling V, our bus company, has enhanced its rigorous cleanings of buses.
  • Our dedicated custodial staff is paying special attention to hard surfaces and highly-trafficked areas. We are well equipped with cleaning supplies.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself and others continues to be the standard preventive practices for influenza. This includes regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Please know that, as always, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread of this illness. Our administrators, faculty and staff have been asked to take this matter of public health seriously but to do so without causing alarm for our students.

Again, we will continue to share updates and resources on a regular basis and until this public health challenge is behind us. 

I appreciate your continued patience and support as we navigate this difficult time together.

Dr. Augustine E. Tornatore
Superintendent of Schools

SUPERINTENDENT UPDATE: Protecting our students, staff from the spread of COVID-19 (March 10 Update)

With the recent news of confirmed cases of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus in the Hudson Valley, Liberty Central School District officials are continuing to monitor information from local, state and federal officials.

Health officials emphasize that the general risk to the public remains low but we all need to be vigilant and cautious. There are many steps that students, staff and community members can take to minimize the spread of all respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. The NYS Department of Health urges the following:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

LCSD school nurses, teachers, and other faculty members are regularly reminding students about the importance of the above measures. Additionally, our custodial and maintenance teams are sanitizing our schools daily. High touch areas – such as door handles, handrails and elevator buttons – are cleaned and sanitized several times each school day. Rolling V, the district’s transportation company, has also stepped-up cleaning protocols and is sanitizing school buses every day.

Meanwhile, the district is preparing to meet the needs of our students and staff in the event the virus affects our community. Should a student or staff member be diagnosed with or presumed to have come in contact with COVID-19, it is anticipated that the district will close the effected buildings for 1-2 days to thoroughly sanitize and disinfect. The district is also prepared to provide students with classwork and is reviewing methods of remote instruction should an extended closure be necessary.

In the event of a school closure related to COVID-19, the district will first use our remaining “snow days.”

The state Department of Health has made quarantine mandatory for individuals returning to the U.S. from a known high-risk exposure area. Based on this, any Liberty student, family member or employee who has traveled to such an area should notify the school principal before coming to school. If the district becomes aware that a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 we will notify staff and parents.

Please also note that exposure to COVID-19 can occur from any person-to-person contact and is not limited to a particular race or ethnicity.

More information about COVID-19 is available from the state Department of Health.

We appreciate the support of our Liberty families and will share more information as it becomes available. As always, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to help prevent the spread of this illness.

Sincerely,

Dr. Augustine Tornatore
Superintendent of Schools

Students CATCH an active lifestyle with Bee Moser

The district would like to extend its thanks to nutritionist Bee Moser of Cornell Cooperative Extension and Eat Smart New York for her work through the Catch Kids program.

The Catch Kids program is a new after school program for students who attend the Boys and Girls Club. Catch Kids that focuses on physical activity and healthy eating. Currently, elementary school members meet on Tuesdays and middle school members meet on Thursdays from 4-5 p.m.

“The CATCH after school program curriculum is an interactive way to get kids moving while giving them the ability to identify healthy foods. We focus on having fun,” Ms. Moser said.  “[The students] play games while learning about the importance of exercise and healthy food.”

The goal of the program, she said, is to create behavior changes.

“It is beautiful to see how much kids are into learning about healthy lifestyles. It is heartwarming to me when I come back each week and have kids lining in up to tell me what healthy thing they’ve begun to incorporate in their life, from a healthy fruit or vegetable to a little bit of extra walking or playing,” she said.

A guide to temperature related school closings

When very cold weather strikes, the district receives many questions from families and staff asking whether school will be delayed or closed due to cold temperatures or wind chill alone.

Under certain conditions, the superintendent  may determine that school should be delayed or closed for the safety of the district’s students and staff.

Weather conditions across the district can vary greatly due changes in elevation. The temperature, wind chill factor and the the safety of children who walk to school are also considered.

We rely on guidance from the National Weather Service to make our
decisions.  Their guidelines into account the amount of time it takes for exposed skin to develop frostbite based on the wind chill and temperature.

When temperatures do not warrant closing, families can help their
children prepare for the weather by dressing them warmly, in
layers, with a hat, scarf, gloves and appropriate footwear.

During colder months, the district makes some adjustments in
response to the weather to ensure students and staff are safe and
as comfortable as possible:

  • Rolling V, our transportation provider, begins preparing district buses as early as 4 a.m. to make sure the engines start and heaters work so that students have as warm a ride to school as possible. Drivers are careful to arrive at bus stops as close to “on time” as possible;
  •  Custodial and maintenance staff ensures temperatures inside classrooms are comfortable and are on standby to respond to any facilities issues that may arise; and
  • Recess and all physical education activities are held indoors.

Instructional time is valuable for all of our students to be able to achieve at the highest levels. We hope that this information is helpful for our students, families and staff to know more about our decision-making process and the steps we can all take to continue our teaching and learning even when it’s very cold out.

District sends goodies to deployed teacher

From Spectrum News:

John Chewens is deployed in the Middle East as a member of the military. He is also a teacher and coach at Liberty Middle School.

His students wanted to show that they are thinking of him, so they’ve collected snacks and coffee and other supplies. School officials say students who don’t even know Mr. Chewens want to send items to show their appreciation.

“Our service men and women, they really put their lives on the line for us,” said said Liberty Central School District Superintendent Dr. Augustine Tornatore. “And this was their way of giving back to him. It really started off as taking a look at sending one care package and it just kind of grew. And we had other buildings in the district involved as well, so we were really fortunate that this has been such a successful endeavor.”

Students sent about 40 letters, and Chewens already received one care package. A second box is on its way, and there are still two more to be shipped.

 

Read the full article and video interview here. 

Vaping 101: What every parent should know

There are hundreds of e-cigarette brands on the market, and they are now the most commonly used tobacco products among youth. Middle and high school students are increasingly using these battery-operated devices, often marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, to inhale nicotine, THC and various synthetic chemicals.

And that has health officials – and school officials – worried.

Inhaling liquid nicotine is concerning on its own, but vaping unknown and potentially more dangerous and damaging substances is even more so, they say – and parents need to be on the alert.

Vaping: What is it?

Vaping is the “act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device,” according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (NCASA).

Vaping has become more popular among teens than regular cigarettes, especially since vaping devices can be used to inhale flavored substances – such as mint, crème brûlée or mango – and substances that contain nicotine or THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that produces the high.

E-cigarettes also can be used to vaporize opiates and synthetic substances.

What do e-cigarettes look like?

Many e-cigarettes and vaping devices look like everyday items – such as pens, asthma inhalers, iPods and lipstick tubes – which makes it easy to disguise their use. One popular vaping device that kids are bringing to school these days is the Juul vaporizer, which looks like a USB flash drive and can be charged by plugging it into a laptop. The Juul is small enough to conceal inside an enclosed hand and comes in eight different kid-appealing flavors. Packaging designs for some vaping liquids look a lot like popular candies, which could confuse some children and lead to accidental poisonings.

Is vaping safe?

Some people claim that vaping is less harmful than smoking, but “safer” does not equal safe. Nicotine – in any form – is a highly addictive drug. Teenage years are critical to brain development, which continues into adulthood. Vaping over a long period of time puts individuals at risk for negative long term effects, including:

  • Damage to the brain, heart and lungs;
  • Cancerous tumor development; and
  • Pre-term deliveries and stillbirths in pregnant women.

What are the risks associated with vaping?

While researchers are still learning about the effects of e-cigarettes, some dangers are clear, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

  • Chemicals in e-liquids can be more concentrated and dangerous than chemicals in a cigarette.
  • Inhaling from a vape pen or e-cigarette that contains nicotine or THC could amplify the drug’s side effects.
  • The additional synthetic chemicals that make up e-liquids – such as synthetic marijuana – could expose the lungs to a variety of chemicals, including carcinogens and toxic metal nanoparticles.
  • Chemicals from these devices can damage the inside of the mouth and create sores.

Are nicotine-free e-cigarettes safe?

Many teens – and adults – are under the impression that it’s safe to inhale nicotine-free water vapors, but recent studies say otherwise.

Much of the respiratory risk appears to come from the flavoring agents found in some e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When inhaled, these flavoring agents can cause “popcorn lung” – a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs that results in the thickening and narrowing of airways. Popcorn lung mirrors the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says e-cigarettes are not safe for young adults. Some of the risk comes from the aerosol itself, which can contain lead, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents.

Are there any regulations to protect my children?

Currently, there are no safety regulations in place related to e-cigarettes. The FDA states that minors are not permitted to buy e-cigarettes in stores or online, but that doesn’t prevent an underage person from buying them online by simply clicking a button that says they are 21 or older.

In New York state, e-cigarettes are treated the same as regular cigarettes. Vaping is banned in all public spaces, including bars and restaurants, the workplace, on public transportation, inside all public and private schools and colleges, and in outdoor areas where smoking is forbidden.

Did you know?

  • Half of middle school students who use e-cigarettes say they were the first type of tobacco product they ever used. Source: NCASA
  • More than 60 percent of teens believe occasional use of e-cigarettes causes only little or some harm. Source: U.S. Surgeon General
  • Many teenagers post photos on Instagram of themselves vaping or holding vaping devices. Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

What can parents do?

Find information about vaping and how to talk with your children about the risks here:

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Know the Risks: E-cigarettes and Young People

Strassman to retire as educator but not as role model

One of Liberty Central School District’s respected educators is hanging up his badge. After 20+ years of arriving early, staying late and greeting students and teachers with a handshake and a smile, revered Liberty’s Middle/High School Principal Jack Strassman will be leaving at the close of this school year.

A fixture in the district for 23 years, Mr. Strassman has always been a spokesperson for Liberty Pride. He bleeds red and white. His students, staff and colleagues love him, have learned from him and will miss him tremendously.

Mr. Strassman started his career in education in 1979. He worked in New York City before joining the Liberty community as elementary school principal in 1995. During his tenure at Liberty, he’s served as elementary school co-principal and middle school co-principal, middle school principal and high school principal before becoming the sole principal of the middle and high school.

Mr. Strassman is the epitome of what it means to do your job with consistency and a genuine love for a school and community. If you were to ask him what his best memories at Liberty were, you’d need to block off an entire day to listen to his stories.

In fact, his office is steeped in Liberty history from top to bottom. In his gallery of Liberty relics, he proudly displays photographs, newspaper clippings, awards and accolades, student artwork and letters, graduation programs, yearbooks, gifts and other memorabilia.

“I just remember having lots of fun and being so proud,” Mr. Strassman said as he flipped through old photos and school memorabilia, recognizing names and faces from 15+ years ago. “I think your best moments are when your school, your faculty, your staff and your students are recognized.”

Everyone remembers the teachers who inspired them to pursue greatness/ Instead, Mr. Strassman remembers the students who inspired him. He reflects often on the classes that he had the pleasure of growing with from elementary to middle to high school. Some of them he’s still quite close with and many of them he hired as teachers.

Now he’s getting ready to retire. But don’t think he’s going sit at home relaxing. Walking, hiking and catching a baseball game are among his favorite activities, but he’ll be doing much more than that. He has plans to hike the red rock canyons in Utah, sample the freshest foods in California and catch some rays in Florida.

With heavy hearts, teachers, students and their families will bid farewell to Mr. Strassman on graduation day, June 23.

What would the MakerSpace look like at Liberty?

Educators at Liberty are reimagining learning environments as innovative spaces for students to get creative and use their imaginations in hands-on learning projects. To that end, the districts proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year would include the creation of Makerspace

The 2018-19 proposed school budget includes funds that would create a MakerSpace – a creative workshop that contains elements found in a woodshop class, science lab, computer lab and an art room – for students in grades K-8.

For several years, there has been a national focus on education and careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Most recently, this focus has come to include the arts, resulting in the implementation of STEAM-based programs in the Liberty Central School District.

If the budget is approved on Tuesday, May 15, the district will create three MakerSpace labs for grades K-4, 5-6 and 7-8.

At the heart of the Makerspace movement is a culture of participatory learning. Makerspaces provide both students AND teachers with opportunities to exercise elements of participatory learning, such as:

• heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation;
• opportunities for creating using a variety of media, tools, and practices;
• learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests; and
• co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of learning and teaching.

What would the MakerSpace Lab look like in each school?

Grades K-4:

The elementary MakerSpace would provide a 21st century learning environment for students with resources, to learn, create, and share. The MakerSpace would become a course for grades 2-4 students to replace the traditional computer course.    Students wuld be assigned to the space maker lab one full trimester each year in grades 2-4. The lab will also be open to students during recess periods to continue project work, as needed.  Materials offered would include coding kits, invention kits, literacy kits and every day items and art supplies from batteries, foil and tape to marbles, playing cards and popsicle sticks.

Grades 5-6:

The District’s current library curriculum, described below, is already organized to incorporate technology and STEM strategies, concepts and activities. The items requested will further enhance this curriculum.

Mondays: (Monster Monday) Students work towards being able to find books and other library related resources for academic and aesthetic growth.

Tuesdays: (Tech Tuesday) As our school follows a 1:1 iPad model, our learning target is technology related. Students work towards finding and using reliable, vetted sources of information (i.e. reference eBooks,subject specific databases, almanacs, encyclopedias). Students also learn the importance of technology, specifically computer coding, and how it fits into everyday life.

Wednesdays: (Wonder Wednesday) Our students work towards the skill of paraphrasing. The class is exposed to and discusses a quote by a famous person (i.e. Stephen Hawking, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou), interprets the quote in their own words, learns about the life of the person, then gives their own thoughts about said quote, in turn connecting it to the famous person’s life.

Thursdays: (Thinker Thursday) Students work on their creative problem solving skills with various STEM activities.

Fridays: (First Chapter Fridays) Students learn about specific authors and are exposed to books by that author.

Grades 7-8:

Activities in MakerSpaces range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research. Projects being developed and produced in MakerSpaces include solar and wind-powered turbines, thin-client computers and wireless data networks, analytical instrumentation for agriculture and healthcare, custom housing, and rapid-prototyping of rapid-prototyping machines.  MakerSpaces share core capabilities, so that people and projects can be shared across them. This currently includes:

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter, for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts
  • A larger (4’x8’) numerically-controlled milling machine, for making furniture- (and house-) sized parts
  • A signcutter, to produce printing masks, flexible circuits, and antennas
  • A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make three-dimensional molds and surface-mount circuit boards
  • Programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors

These would work components and materials optimized for use in the field, and are controlled with custom software for integrated design, manufacturing, and project management.

 

Each school’s MakerSpace would be incorporated into its curriculum, allowing every student an opportunity to take part.

 

 

Liberty “mathletes” shine at competition

Liberty middle school students placed third overall in a recent MathCounts competition in Montgomery, NY. The competition team, comprising of Carlos Torres, Alexus Parisella, Tanner Ferguson, and Dylan Nichols, are hoping to make it to the state competition next month.

MathCounts is a nationwide competitive mathematics program designed to expand students’ math horizons and encourage them to consider math-oriented careers such as engineering. Teachers and students in Liberty have been preparing for the competition since school began in the fall. The after-school meetings and competitions spark high-level mathematics achievement through a series of fun and engaging “bee” style contests.

The middle school’s MathCounts club meets once a week. In addition to the MathCounts material, students work on coding, prodigy competitions and dive into more challenging topics for fun. Although MathCounts competitions are only open to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, fifth-grade students are welcome to attend meetings and hone in on their skills.

In fact, according to the club advisor, Ms. Amanda Martin, the group mostly consists of fifth-grade students.

“We’re excited to see what the future holds,” she said.
For more information about MathCounts club meetings and competitions, contact Amanda Martin at AMartin@libertyk12.org.

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