Elmont Memorial High School parents had the opportunity to ask administrators questions about the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s reopening plan at a virtual Parent Teacher Student Association meeting on Saturday.
During the two and a half hour-long conversation, Principal Kevin Doughterty and assistant principals Brian Burke and Paul Naraine went over the plan with nearly 200 parents. It includes half of the student body learning in-school one day and virtually the next, while the other half does the opposite. Any student enrolled in the Life Skills or special education programs could attend school in person every day, and any parent who does not feel comfortable sending their child to school could opt for a full remote program with district teachers. Parents can choose to have their child learn remotely at any time during the school year, Dougherty said, but would not be able to switch from remote learning to in-person learning until the following semester.
The remote program would use Google Meets, he noted, and would comprise live instruction, as well as some recorded instruction, independent work, project-based activities and research-based work
Students who do go to school, meanwhile, would have to fill out a survey on their iPads every morning certifying that they do not have any Covid-19 symptoms, in which case the screen would turn a certain color. They would then present the screen to their bus drivers and school officials outside of each of the four entrances to the high school. If their screens are not displaying the proper color of the day, Dougherty said, they “will be turned away.”
Additionally, any student coming from a program at Sewanhaka High School must have their temperature taken before they enter Elmont Memorial.
The school would also look different, he said, with one-way hallways and up and down staircases. Students would not be allowed to access their lockers, and only those in ninth through 12-grade would switch classes throughout the day. Seventh and eighth graders would stay in one classroom, with the teachers changing, and lunches delivered.
Clubs would be conducted virtually, and low-risk sports would begin on Sept. 21.
“It’s going to feel very strange,” Dougherty said of the school year, adding that district officials are relying on parents to not send their child to school if he or she is sick.
The proposal still has to be approved by State Education Department officials, but last Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that school districts throughout the state would be allowed to reopen in the fall. He said he based his decision on low infection rates recorded in every region.
“Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “If there’s a spike in the infection rate, if there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, we can revisit.”
Cuomo added that New York is in “the best situation in the country right now,” and said, “if anyone can open schools, we can open schools.”
The State Education Department is leaving the specifics of how to reopen New York’s 749 school districts to the districts themselves, and all of their plans were due on July 31.
Under the Elmont Union Free School District’s plans, kindergarteners through third-graders would attend class in-person Mondays through Wednesdays, and fourth- through sixth-graders would attend class in person on Thursdays and Fridays. The classes would then be divided into two cohorts, with classroom teachers and special-area teachers alternating between the two groups.
On days they are not in school, Elmont students would complete reinforcement materials, and would meet with teachers virtually.
The Franklin Square School District, however, is proposing a full return to school with a virtual learning option for kindergarteners through sixth-graders. Its district officials are planning to hold several question and answer sessions on Aug. 12, Aug. 17 and Aug. 19. The link to these discussions will be posted on the district website.