July 31, 2020 Weekly Newsletter

Letter From the Principal

Dear Parents: 

For me, this week flew by! I spent the week working on our programming with Andrew Bergen, the former Student Coordinator and now the 8th grade science teacher and Erica Williams, the current Student Coordinator. We’ve been programming together every summer for years! Every summer we have programmatic challenges to figure out, and always find solutions over pretzels and blueberries from the farmers market. This week, however, the challenges are exponential, but we’ve made a lot of progress. We started in school on Monday and then moved to remote scheduling. While in school, we were able to see the “demo classrooms” the custodians set up — a regular size one with nine desks spaced six feet apart and a larger room  with 12 desks spaced six feet apart.  

Below are the questions I shared with you at the Town Hall. We have some, but not enough answers already. Here is a status report: 

Programmatic Questions that Need Immediate Answers 

1. Under what circumstances will exemptions be granted?  

There is now an exemption process. I have already met with one member of the District 3 Review Committee, which will either approve it at the district level, ask for modifications, or reject it out right. I received some feedback and am working to incorporate it into our program design. 

2. Will there be flexibility in the length of the school day? 

At his meeting with the principals, Chancellor Carranza talked only about the length of the teachers’ work day and not about the school day for students. He did use the word flexibility. It isn’t a no, so that is good news as far as I am concerned. 

3. How will IEP mandates, such as ICT and 1:1 paraprofessionals, be met? 

Students with ICT accommodations will receive support from a special education teacher during the school day, but the two teacher model does not have to be used. There has been no discussion yet on paraprofessionals. 

4. How many families will choose 100% remote? 

This data has not been shared yet. 

5. Who will teach the students who choose this option? 

The DOE has said that these students will remain part of Booker T. (their home school) and will be taught by teachers from that school.  

Our plan is to program them within regular cohorts and not keep them all together and apart from the other students.

6. How many families need more in-person opportunities because of personal circumstances? 

We do not know this year. 

General Questions That Need Immediate Answers 

1. Will there be busing for special needs students? 

No word yet. 

2. Will there be enough PPE for each school? 

The DOE says yes.  

3. Will there be temperature checks? For teachers? For students? Who will do them? Will there be COVID testing? 

We do not know about temperature checks as there is a question about who will do them if the administrators, teachers, and nurses are being told they cannot. Chancellor Carranza said tonight that teachers will be considered a priority for testing and should/will be highly encouraged to get tested 7 days before live teaching starts and regularly. 

4. What happens if there is a positive case in the school? 

If there is a confirmed positive case in a cohort of nine students, the entire class of 9 and the teachers they have come in contact with will be quarantined. If tracing indicates that the student did not come in contact with any other student and there are no subsequent cases in other rooms, only the cohort itself will be quarantined. 

If positive cases are linked between classes of 9, the entire school is closed for live instruction.   

There is a chart that details this and will be forthcoming. 

5. Will budget appeals be granted? 

No news on this. 

6. Will the DOE provide every school with additional personnel from the central offices and from the ATR pool? 

As of now, they are saying that in the case where a school has more students choosing 100% remote and not a proportional number of teachers requesting accommodations, they will send the staff in to handle the remote instruction. They have not said yet what they will do if the opposite, a low number of students choosing 100% remote, but a high number of staff members requesting accommodations. 

7. What will happen when students and families are not compliant? 

No word yet. 

8. How will the cleaning of the building be done? 

They insist that there are strict cleaning protocols in place. Theses have not been shared. 

9. How will grading look? 

No information yet. 

The Cohort of 9 

As I said at the Town Hall, we will do our best to TRY to put your child in a cohort with at least one of their friend requests. Understand, however, that this may not be possible. Much depends on your child’s class placements and language assignment. It is a complicated matrix, and we are not going to prioritize your child’s friend request over what we think is the best educational placement for them.   

PLEASE do not email me these requests. A survey will be forthcoming. Please complete it and put your requests in the survey. There will be space for each of you to describe your special circumstances. 

It hasn’t been easy, but I continue to keep the needs of your children at the forefront of my mind and will work to find solutions that adhere to our educational philosophy and our school mission. Thank you for your trust. 

Elana Elster 

Please Note: If you want to opt for 100% remote, please complete this survey by August 7. 

Parent Advocacy Needed for Safe Reopening

At last week’s Town Hall, we learned that a number of essential questions regarding how to safely reopen schools remain unanswered. If you’re concerned about these open issues that will directly impact the health and welfare of our children, families, and teachers, please click HERE for a an email template that you can use to reach out to DOE and elected officials to demand answers. Just copy and paste the text to send your own email.

Thank you in advance for your advocacy and support!

Friday Coffee 

We miss you — let’s have coffee! Join us Friday morning at 8:30 am to get the latest reopening updates from Dr. Elster and have an opportunity to ask questions.

DATE: Friday, August 7
TIME: 8:30 AM
Meeting ID: 986 2167 3976
Passcode: 680197
One tap mobile
+16465588656,,98621673976#,,,,,,0#,,680197# US (New York)

Summer Engagement Series 

Welcome, sixth grade families — we’re so happy you’re here! As discussed in last night’s Town Hall, the PTA has put together some socially distanced ways to welcome you to our community. We’re so excited to offer:

  • Family Zoom Meet & Greets with Sixth Grade Teachers – RSVP HERE!
  • Buddy Families – SIGN UP HERE!
  • Student Activity Sessions Online – COMING SOON!
  • Walking Crews (open to all grades) – COMING SOON!

Please reach out to with any questions or ideas. Stay tuned for more information to come soon!

Family Meet & Greets

Sixth grade families are invited to join a Zoom Meet & Greet with teachers on August 18 or 20 from 7:05 - 8:00 PM. Learn more about the coming year and get to know our teachers and other new parents. Encourage your child to join — if possible, on a separate device — there will be a breakout session for parents & kids! Register HERE.

Register to Get (or Be!) a Buddy Family by August 3!

Incoming G6 families are encouraged to sign up for a Buddy Family! Families will connect via phone or Zoom this summer to help answer parent & student questions, as well as serve as a knowledgeable resource throughout the year. Request a Buddy Family here:

If you’re a seventh or eighth grade family and would like to help the newest members of the MS54 community acclimate, sign up to be a Buddy Family here:

Last Day for Community Food Drive is August 3

Help Our Hungry Neighbors - Order Pantry Items for Remote Delivery to MS54! MS54's Mega Food Drive makes it easy for you to donate just when people will be hungrier than ever with the end of $600/week of pandemic unemployment assistance this week. To participate, simply place a grocery order online and have it sent to Booker T. A volunteer team does the bagging and distribution!

Send your delivery to: MS54 Booker T. Washington JHS Main Entrance on West 108 Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues

Monday, August 3 from 7:30 AM to 1:30 PM is the final delivery window!

Suggested non-perishable pantry items:

  • dry pasta
  • beans (dry and canned)
  • rice
  • tomato sauce 
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • canned tuna
  • sardines
  • breakfast cereal
  • oatmeal

Basically anything in boxes, cans, and jars that families often need for meals is helpful!

The need is great, and we know our community has a big heart. Any questions? Please contact Anne McIntosh Pejovich at 347-563-5156 or  Thank you in advance for your participation!

P-EBT Food Benefit Cards

This summer, all families of students enrolled at NYC public schools will receive a debit card (P-EBT card) in the mail pre-loaded with $420 per student to help cover the cost of meals while school buildings were closed due to the pandemic. You do not need to take any action — cards will be sent to the address on file or EBT cards will be credited the amount. These cards are distributed by the state, not by Booker T, so if you have questions, please visit the NYS FAQ page or call 1-888-328-6399.

Everyone who receives the P-EBT card should use it, even if you don't need the money. There is no option to transfer your card to someone else or return your card to the government, and using your P-EBT will stimulate the local economy. But, after you have used your P-EBT, you can redistribute the funds by donating the equivalent – $420 per child – to support food distribution efforts throughout NYC or to another cause that’s important to you — such as MS54’s food drive!

Request a DOE Learning Device

The DOE is lending internet-enabled iPads to support remote learning for students. If your family has been sharing devices, or has unstable internet, a DOE iPad could be a big help. Here’s the link to request a device: 

School Calendar

August 7: Friday Coffee @ 8:30 am on Zoom
August 18 & 20: G6 Teacher Meet & Greets. Register HERE
September 10: First Day of School???

Community Calendar

August 10: Scott Stringer Round Table @ 6:00 pm — Register HERE
August 12: CEC3 Business & Calendar Meeting @ 6:30 — Register HERE
August 12: DOE Return to School Information Session @ 6:30 — Register HERE
August 27: DOE Return to School Information Session @ 6:30 — Register HERE
Amazon Reminder

If you are placing orders with Amazon, please remember to always use this link: or click on the Amazon logo on our website and begin your shopping. 

At no extra cost to you, MS54 gets money for every dollar you spend as long as you use our link.
Booker T Facebook Communication Forum

Join MS54's Facebook group - a closed group of the parents, teachers, and staff where information is shared and issues of interest to the community are discussed.  Once a member of our group, anyone can post and share articles and messages with our school community.  

You can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2020 MS54 PTA, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp