Parents » 2020-2021 Family Handbook

2020-2021 Family Handbook

Dear Parents and Students,


   Welcome to a new school year! While this will be an opening like no other we have faced before, I want to assure you that the safety, health and emotional well-being of our staff and students will be our top priority. It is with great pride and pleasure that I welcome back our 7th and 8th grade students, as well as open our doors to this year’s incoming 6th grade students. As Principal of Joseph B. Cavallaro I.S. 281, it is my hope that together we will provide each student with a nurturing and educationally challenging school year. Please join us in setting high standards of excellence and expectations for each and every child aligned to the Chancellor’s Instructional Framework, with an emphasis on ensuring the social and emotional well-being of our students.


   Our mission statement reads, “As the magnet school for STEAM, we at Joseph B. Cavallaro will provide every child with the support to grow intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. In an advanced inquiry based learning environment, we will serve as leaders for the 21st Century, in both technology and the arts.” As a school that prides itself on offering their student’s an educationally and culturally rich environment, it will be our goal to continue forward in that direction. This year’s Instructional Focus reads, “Students will engage in targeted instruction using advanced literacy and high level questioning to meet the individual needs of all learners, as determined by unified, data based assessments tracking students’ progress towards proficiency within each standard.”


   In partnership with the entire school community, it is my vision to provide every child with a safe, nurturing and educationally equitable learning environment complete with a rigorously challenging curriculum setting all students on the road to college and career readiness. If together we hold true to the values of equity, integrity, communication, perseverance and trust, it will ultimately permeate into the hearts and minds of our students through our example. Please join us in the many events we hold throughout the year. Thus, our mission of preparing each and every child on a successful path will be attained with your involvement. I look forward to a promising school year.



Maria Bender

Principal, Joseph B. Cavallaro I.S. 281


"If you cannot fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Health and Safety Always Come First

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies will be supplied to all schools, and the New York City Department of Education (DOE) will have a 30-day supply on hand at all times – with a hotline for principals to call for immediate resupply for their schools
  • There will be a full-time nurse in every public school building
  • Any school building or room found to have inadequate ventilation will not be used by students or staff
  • Students and staff will practice physical distancing in all school buildings
  • Students will remain in pods for as much of the day as possible
  • Students and staff will wear face coverings throughout the school day; if they do not have them, they will be provided for free
  • We will place hand sanitizer in every classroom
  • City-run testing sites will prioritize free COVID testing and expedited results for school staff; free testing is also available to all students, families, and New Yorkers citywide
  • We are encouraging all DOE employees to be tested monthly
  • NYC Department of Health and Test + Trace Corps will immediately investigate confirmed cases to prevent spread of the virus
  • Schools will communicate with all students and families when there are confirmed cases in schools
  • When necessary, classrooms or school buildings will temporarily close to maintain safety of school communities and prevent spread of the virus
  • School buildings will close if the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in New York City is 3% or more using a 7-day average—the most aggressive threshold in the nation


NYC Public Schools Will be Cleaned and Disinfected, Day and Night

  • All school buildings will be disinfected overnight, every night
  • High-touch zones will be cleaned multiple times throughout each day
  • Electrostatic disinfectors will clean surfaces daily with zero physical contact

Students Will be Learning Five Days a Week, No Matter What

  • Whether in-person or online, students will study in supportive environments with rigorous academic standards
  • Remote students will interact with their teachers every day
  • Student schedules – both remote and in-person – will be preset and consistent to allow families to plan
  • Academic instruction will integrate social-emotional learning and trauma-informed care to support students holistically
  • Teachers will have time each day to engage one-on-one with students and families
We want to make sure we can contact you quickly and effectively to share information, including about confirmed COVID-19 cases in your child’s school. Please sign up for a New York City Schools Account (NYCSA) so we can contact you via phone, email, or text message.


Your NYCSA account can also help you find your child’s grades, test scores, schedules, transportation information, and more— from anywhere, and in all nine standard DOE language translations. I encourage you to keep your contact information up to date, so we can get in touch with you in the event of an emergency. If you don’t have an account, sign up today at It only takes five minutes!

To help students stay connected during emergencies, the DOE is lending internet-enabled iPads to support remote learning for students. Please encourage families who need to request an internet- enabled electronic device to complete the Electronic Device Request Form.

Every school will have a COVID-19 building response team that is activated to manage health and safety incidents or emergency, including managing schools-related emergencies until first responders arrive. The BRT will be composed of:

  • BRT Leader
  • Special Needs Coordinator
  • Emergency officer
  • Assembly Point Coordinator
  • Recorder
  • School Nurse
  • Custodian
  • School Safety Agent/Agents

If a student is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the BRT is activated and proper DOE & DOH protocols are followed.

If a student is required to be held in the Isolation Room, the parent will be contacted and expected to pick the child up immediately. The student will be supervised and both will be given proper personal protective equipment until the parent arrives. NYC-DOE Covid-19 School Health Policy guidelines will be followed.



6th Grade:

Assistant Principal - Ms. Delfini

Dean - Ms. Wakie

Guidance Counselor - Mr. Burstein


7th Grade:

Assistant Principal - Ms. Bailey

Dean - Ms. Boyd

Guidance Counselor - Ms. Soto


8th Grade:

Assistant Principal - Mr. Adelson

Dean - Ms. Lanigan

Social Worker Ms. Weingarten


Parent Coordinator-Ms. DiMatteo

Principal - Ms. Bender

  • Students will enter the building using only their designated grade entrances and line up following proper social distancing protocols while wearing a mask.

8th Grade – 24th and Bath Exit 4/5 (line flow towards Cropsey)

7th Grade - Bay 37th Exit 6/7 (line flow towards Bath)

6th Grade – Bay 37th Exit 8 (line flow towards Cropsey)


  • Daily health screenings must be done prior to entering the building, and random temperature checks will be conducted as students enter the school.
  • -If a student is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the BRT will be activated and proper DOE & DOH protocols will be followed.
  • -All staff, students and visitors must wear a mask while in the building at all times. Appropriate floor/wall signage, hand washing protocols and hallway movement must be adhered to at all times.
  • -Students will remain in their designated classroom throughout the day.
  • -At dismissal, students will be escorted down to their designated areas by their teachers. 8th Grade Exit 4/5, 7th Grade Exit 6/7, 6th Grade Main Entrance.
  • -All students are expected to vacate the area while following proper social distancing protocols.
  • Official class schedules will be posted in each class’s Google Classroom and on the outside of Blended classrooms.
  • Class programs will detail the daily flow following our Bell Schedule. The schedule of live daily instructional time for each class will also be posted in Google Classroom.
  • All student attendance will be taken every period using Google Classroom. Students working remotely are required to enter their attendance each day in their google classrooms. 

I.S. 281’s grading policy is standardized for all students in connection with our school-wide progress monitoring and parent communication system Pupilpath. Teachers will use the following guidelines when calculating a student’s grade for each marking period.

 Student Assessments = 60%

Student Homework = 20%

Student Engagement = 20%


  1. 60% - Tests/Projects/Essays/Tasks: A minimum of 1 comprehensive tests and 1 project/task per MP, along with other formal/informal assessments such as projects, quizzes, group assignments, writing tasks etc. In addition, 1 standardized mid-term and 1 end of year assessment in each subject will be administered throughout the school year.
  2. 20% - Maintaining a consistent homework policy throughout all grades and disciplines is necessary for accurate record keeping, data analysis and equity.  All homework assignments will be posted on Pupilpath on a daily basis by the end of each school day and will be graded within 5 days of the assigned date.
  3. 20% - A student engagement grade is given based upon how they engage in the lesson and its contents (group work, class discussion, assessment of each other’s work etc.)
  • Upon arrival, students will be permitted to bring a grab-n-go breakfast to class.
  • Students must remain in their classrooms during their designated instructional lunch period. Lunch will be brought to their classrooms.
  • Students are permitted to remove their masks when eating lunch, but must remain seated and follow social distancing protocols.
  • Students are required to dispose of their garbage and sanitize their eating area at the conclusion of lunch.
  • Student bathrooms are closed the first and last 5 minutes of the period for cleaning purposes. If a child has an emergency, the grade dean will be contacted for assistance.
  • Students must use the bathroom ONLY on the designated floor of their classroom. Student bathrooms are available on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors.
  • Only ONE student may be sent out of class at a time and only ONE student is permitted in the bathroom at a time as supervised by a staff member.

***Due to COVID-19 programming restrictions, it was necessary to restructure our Talent program. For the current 2020-21 school year, Talent will be offered as a whole class elective based upon the scheduling of remote and blended classes.

As a STEAM School, our students have many opportunities to benefit from using available technology. As responsible members of our school community, students are expected to follow all IS 281 and Department of Education policies regarding use of this equipment (Infraction B19 of the Citywide Discipline Code – inappropriate use of electronic technology).   Here are some guidelines that students are expected to follow when using school computers:


  • Students are expected to take proper care of the computers & other technology equipment.
  • Students are not allowed to cause any type of intentional damage to the equipment, including but limited to damaging screens, keyboards, mouse, headphones and improperly shutting down computers, causing them to crash.
  • Students are not allowed to download any programs, games, extensions, etc (such as Spotify, Roblox, Minecraft) on school computers.
  • Students are not allowed to modify, change or disable any settings on school computers, including proxy settings.
  • Students are not permitted to access and/or edit other students’ work that is on school computers.
  • Students are not permitted to eat, drink or chew gum in the Computer Lab.
  • Students are expected to leave the Computer Lab in the same condition that they found it in.

Students are required to complete and sign the Electronic Device Policy, which will be distributed electronically.

  • In accordance with Chancellor’s Regulation A-413, students are permitted to bring cell phones and other electronic items to school. However, it is the policy of I.S. 281 that cell phones and portable music and entertainment systems may not be turned on or used at any time during the regular school day. 
  • It is the responsibility of each student to safeguard his/her cell phone, computing device, portable music and entertainment system and other electronic device.
  • Confiscation and return of electronic items                         
      • If the device is visible, the student will receive a verbal warning by school personnel.
      • If the device is in use, it will be confiscated, the parent will be contacted and the item will be returned at end of school day.
      • If the device is used a second time, it will be confiscated and return following a parent conference.
      • If the device continues to be used and the student continues to be in violation of school policy, revocation of the privilege to bring the item to school will be reserved by the school.

In preparation for a return to the school building in a Blended Learning/Remote model, we have amended the school supply lists for the onset of the school year. We may ask for additional supplies as the year progresses.

Due to COVID-19, students will not be sharing supplies at this time. All supplies will be kept in students’ backpacks. In addition to these supplies, students can carry their own hand sanitizer. However, all classrooms have been equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers, which will be filled daily.


Grades 6-8 Supply List:

  • Backpack
  • One notebook for each content area
  • One folder for each content area
  • Loose-leaf paper
  • Post-it notes
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Pens (black or blue ink)
  • Highlighters
  • Scientific Calculator