Dows Lane Elementary School has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2020 Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School. The honor recognizes Dows Lane as one of the nation’s top schools for its overall academic performance.
This is the first time Dows Lane has been awarded Blue Ribbon status. It is one of only 367 schools nationwide to be designated for 2020.
The award, according to the Department of Education, “affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.” The award, now in its 38th year, is considered a “symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.”
Virtual awards ceremonies honoring this year’s Blue Ribbon schools will be held Nov. 12-13.
“We are so proud of this recognition, this honor, and everyone involved should be proud,” Schools Superintendent Kris Harrison said. “This is a testament to all — to a community that is second to none — and to the faculty and staff, from the principal’s office to the custodial. Everybody plays a role. They come in every day with energy and enthusiasm and this serves as motivation to provide a creative learning experience.”
Andrea Kantor, the principal since July 2019 and assistant principal for the two preceding years, was “honored and humbled” by the achievement. Kantor, a South Salem resident, previously was with the Katonah-Lewisboro School District for more than 11 years. She received a master’s degree in elementary education and a doctorate in applied psychology from New York University.
“We were notified last fall that we had been nominated and we spent a great deal of time thinking about what we would put in our application and other required forms,” Kantor said. “There are national standards that have to be met, of course, and we had to submit a lot of essays, letters, and referrals — from the teachers, custodians, parents, and other members of the community. But we also thought outside the box about what we do every day to help a child learn and grow. What was our secret?
“Our secret is that of joy, the joy of learning, of being together, and being part of this community,” she continued. “We try to help the youngest find the joy. And that is one of the things we stressed in our application. At the same time, we try to get them to understand that life isn’t always easy, that they must be strong, have grit and resilience, and not shy away from problems. But we laugh all the time, too, with joy. As a faculty, and the staff in total, we all work well together and we never lose sight of our mission, which is to help children learn.”
The school, which serves 510 students, reopened with on-site learning on Sept. 21. For the two weeks after Sept. 8, it had been functioning on a distance-learning basis due to Covid-19. This time period allowed for the teachers to adapt to a new routine and for the staff to zero in on cleaning procedures.
The Irvington School District is using a color-coded chart for all its schools, breaking down the year’s hybrid model showing which grades and which students (by using the first letter of their last names) are to be on-site each day of the week. According to Kantor, 50 Dows Lane students opted for exclusively remote learning for the year.
“Obviously, this is still a work in progress but it is also something we have been working on since last spring when the schools had to close. Dr. Harrison led the charge in prioritizing,” Kantor said. “And since we reopened on-site, everyone has been great about wearing masks, social distancing, and filling out a Covid-19 form each morning. I think both the children and the teachers are thrilled to be together again. Our goal is for each of our students to have a full day of learning.”
While the Blue Ribbon awards ceremony will be remote, the school intends to celebrate.
Kantor provided one example: “The PTSA Spirit Wear Committee is working to design a new T-shirt for Dows Lane students and staff with a picture of the Irvington District Bulldog as a puppy proudly wearing the National Blue Ribbon logo on a ribbon.”