September will be here before we know it and with that local schools around the Island are grappling with the idea of whether or not to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, many local colleges, such as Adelphi University and Hofstra University, are planning to reopen their campuses this fall, but with new stringent protocols that include social distancing and classroom occupancy restrictions. Meanwhile, neighboring states like Connecticut and New Jersey recently announced that they have plans to reopen their schools this fall, but will New York follow suit?
Anton Media Group reached out to school districts across Nassau County and asked superintendents whether or not parents, students and teachers should prepare to head back to the classroom this fall.
The administration for Massapequa Public Schools is currently considering three options for reopening in the fall.
“Our staff is reviewing three possible systems—a return to in-person learning, continuing with remote learning, and a possible hybrid of both in-person and remote learning,” Lucille Iconis, superintendent of Massapequa Public Schools, said. “Any final decisions will be made in the best interest of our students and staff with their health and safety at the forefront of all decisions. Additionally, we will abide by all guidance provided by Governor Cuomo’s office, the New York State Education Department and the New York State Department of Health.”
The Farmingdale School District has already started analyzing how the administration is going to approach the relaunch of the school year in the fall.
“Last month, we created a district-wide task force to design an instructional plan for the start of the new school year,” Farmingdale School District Superintendent Paul Defendi said. “Our ‘team of teams’ have been hard at work, preparing guidelines for a multitude of scenarios. We are also in the process of gathering input from parents and staff to help inform the decision-making process. Our goal is maximum flexibility with the possibility of pivoting to remote learning on a dime. No school district will be able to come up with a perfect plan to re-open. But, by working together, we believe we can come up with the best plan possible for Farmingdale.”
The Garden City School District is getting everything in order for a possible reopening and will keep safety its number one priority.
“As we plan for reopening in September, our goal is to have our students in our classrooms,” Garden City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kusum Sinha said. “Any opening will happen in a way that places safety first. While we await guidance from the New York State Education Department and the governor’s office, we are working on three scenarios, which include complete in-person learning, blended learning and remote learning. We will be prepared to implement any of the three options depending on the directions we receive from the state. The district has developed a task force that consists of various stakeholders including teachers, administrators, healthcare providers, parents and board members, which will continue to meet until plans are in place for September. We also sent out a survey to parents seeking their input, and a virtual parent meeting to address questions and concerns on reopening is being scheduled for mid-July.”
Island Trees Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy said the district has been asked countless times about the reopening plans for September. Murphy stated they currently do not have any definitive plans for how they are planning to go about reopening, while keeping students, faculty and staff safe. The district has also been faced with a number of possible problems to consider regarding reopening guidelines.
“The school district has been told to consider reopening schools with six-feet social distancing measures,” Murphy said. “Naturally, it would be impossible to maintain our traditional class sizes by keeping students six-feet apart. With these parameters, we would need to reduce most of our classes by half. We do not have enough staff or space to meet these potential requirements. Equally problematic, the school district has been asked to examine social distance busing limitations. Similar to the class size issue, our school buses would not be able to carry more than ten students. Since our school buses generally hold approximately forty students, we would be unable to transport all of the students to school.”
“The district has put together several committees, as well as a district-wide committee to examine the upcoming challenges and issues the district may face ahead of this school year. “This committee is comprised of our key stakeholders, including parents, teachers, staff, and administrators so that we can gain all perspectives as we attempt to answer this big question: ‘In the event schools are not permitted to open in a “normal” fashion, how would we meet the social distance mandates?’ Frankly, NYS would be asking school districts to plan for the impossible, and no plan would be able to meet all community expectations,” Murphy said. Regardless of guidelines the district’s number one priority is to create a reopening plan that “is safe and keeps the best interests of our children and staff in mind,” Murphy stated.
Marianne Litzman, superintendent of Hicksville Schools, said the district has been holding a number of community forums for the parents to evaluate how to best move forward.
“The purpose of the forums is to provide an exchange of thoughts, ideas and concerns surrounding reopening of schools between the district and the community,” Litzman said. “Results of each forum are reported back to the task force for consideration for the reopening plan.”
Liztman stated that the district, like most on Long Island, has not received any guidance from the governor or the state education department yet. However, once guidance is received, the information will be made available to the community.
Superintendent of the Port Washington School District Michael Hynes has decided to move forward with plans without guidelines from local/state health and education officials. The district has created a task force comprised of two committees—reopening and instruction. The reopening committee will focus on a number of topics including health and safety, special education and mental health, transportation and food service, building protocols and communications. The instructional committees focus is to look at a number of possibilities including remote learning or a combination of remote and in-person instruction.
“Both committees are meeting weekly, at least, to develop plans that will cohesively and effectively address instructional, safety and health issues for a smooth reopening of schools, hopefully, in September,” Hynes said.
As of publication, there is no formal announcement from Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding specific guidelines and measures that school districts on Long Island may have to take this September. Guidelines and further solidified plans for school reopening procedures will most likely be available in mid-July.