Goal is a safe return to school

Malverne, West Hempstead districts prepare for a new academic year

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After a year of virtual learning combined with periods of in-person instruction, school district leaders in Malverne and West Hempstead are eager to see all of their students return to their buildings when the academic year begins next month.

The West Hempstead School District is preparing to welcome students back on Sept. 1. District officials agreed that based on what they learned over the past year, students benefit most from in-person interaction with educators and classmates. “Their safe return has been our top priority,” district Superintendent Daniel Rehman said.

There will be no hybrid or fully remote option implemented at this point, Redman added. Masks will be mandatory indoors for all students, staff, teachers and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. All occupants of school buses will be required to wear masks as well. Whenever possible, students, faculty and staff will maintain three feet of space between one another, and those in music and phys. ed. classes, six feet.

“We have received feedback from our school community, and will provide all students access to school meals each day and enforce appropriate rules for social distancing,” Rehman said. “In addition, we will continue to adhere to health and safety protocols, including maximizing ventilation, practicing good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.”

Among the district’s project this summer has been the ongoing construction of a new pre-kindergarten center at the Chestnut Street School. Work on the center, funded by the district’s 2020-21 budget, began in May, and administrators hope it will be completed by the end of the school year.

“Things are truly in motion,” Board of Education President Karen Brohm said of the pre-K center. “I just hope that it stays on that upward trajectory, and that we see this come to fruition sooner than later.”

The cafeterias at Cornwell Avenue Elementary School and George Washington Intermediate School have been upgraded, and new ceilings, lighting and electrical wiring have been installed at the middle and high school complex. The expansion of the middle school gym will be completed sometime this fall, and a media center at the high school will be finished later in the school year.

The district will host a Back to School and Community Event this Friday, from noon to 3 p.m., at West Hempstead High School. Parents are welcome to take part in events such as photo and art booths, lawn games and a book swap. Food and drinks, with kosher options, will also be available.

The Malverne School District, which will kick off the school year on Sept. 9, also had a busy summer of preparation. The plan is for all grades to return in person, with the intention of remaining so all year with safe practices. All students and staff will wear properly fitted masks indoors, but they will be optional outdoors.

“While we cannot mandate vaccinations, we are imploring all staff and students over the age of 12 to do so,” said Malverne Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis. “I truly believe that we can fight this virus and return to normal interactions if we follow all of the recommendations of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevent], which is masks and vaccinations. The greater the vaccination rate of our community, the more likely we can return to normal. Following the guidelines of the CDC will allow us to remain open and avoid the quarantines we were subjected to last year.”

There will be a Covid-19 testing truck at Malverne High School on Sept. 8 and 9, available to all district residents.

The district completed several projects this summer, including the installation of a new roof and a robotics room at the high school; new restrooms, a guidance suite and an air-conditioned computing center at Howard T. Herber Middle School; and new restrooms and an outdoor learning space at Davison Avenue Intermediate School. At Maurice W. Downing Primary School, the gym’s ceiling was repaired.

“We triumphed over so much last year, because we worked together, putting our children first,” Lewis wrote in a letter to parents. “The results of our Advanced Placement program provided evidence of the hard work put forth by staff and students, even in the most difficult circumstances. Some of the subjects outperformed our highest expectations and towered over the results for Nassau County. We are grateful for the effort it took to finish strong, and we are ready to do the same this year.”

There was a delay in the start of construction of the high school’s new baseball field due to a shortage of supplies, Lewis said, but administrators expect to break ground soon, and be ready for the season opener in spring.

“So much of what got us through last year was tied up in our collective spirit, patience, and flexibility,” Lewis said. “We do not know what the next variant of Covid will bring, but I do know that this community will not vary in its commitment to unlock possibilities to lead our children to success.”

Additional details on Malverne’s reopening plan will be presented at the Board of Education’s next meeting on Aug. 31.

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