Almost a month has passed since the Freeport School District reopened, and its schools are now preparing to welcome more students back, with the Covid-19 infection rate remaining low in the village and Nassau County.
Initially, only students in kindergarten through first grade, as well as special-needs and English as a Second Language students, could attend in-person classes four days a week. All other students were split into two groups and had to alternate the days they could attend school, with Fridays serving as remote learning days for all.
Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said last week that students in second and fifth grades could go to school four days a week starting Oct. 13.
“We’ve had a smooth reopening for students and staff, and we believe that this next step will help our students’ development,” Kuncham said.
As the district was preparing to reopen in early September, he explained, it appeared that only a fraction of students would opt for the remote-only learning model —about 1,200 students district-wide. But by Sept. 25, that number had shot up to 2,800, about 41 percent of all district students.
With such a large portion of the student body electing for the remote-only model, there was available space in the schools to welcome more students who chose the hybrid model for in-person classes.
District officials said that second-graders were given priority to join the four-day, in-person school week, because they were the youngest. Fifth-graders were also chosen because they attend the Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School, and thus would not overcrowd the elementary schools.
School board Trustee Gabriella Castillo said she was happy to have her two daughters, a second-grader and fifth-grader, return four days a week. While remote learning was manageable for her family in the spring, when she and her husband worked from home and could help their children, keeping up with the hybrid model proved challenging with both parents back at work, Castillo said.
“I was nervous when I first heard that they would be going back to school four days a week,” she said, “but after looking at the numbers and seeing my girls excited for it, I felt this was safe and the right move. It returns stability and normalcy to their lives.”
Kuncham added that the change would benefit not only the students attending the in-person classes, but also their remote-model classmates, because they would be able to take advantage of four days of learning with their peers.
Trustee Maria Jordan-Awalom was more reserved, as she kept her two children, an eighth-grader and a 10th-grader, at home. She acknowledged, however, that while she was worried about the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, the district had worked hard to keep students and staff safe.
Jordan-Awalom said the remote model was working well for her family, and if the Covid-19 infection were to continue to drop, she would reconsider allowing her children to take part in the hybrid model.
The district will continue to monitor Covid-19 cases in the district and the statewide infection rate as it continues with its reopening plans, officials said.
District officials urged students and staff to be mindful of their hygiene and the “MSW” motto, which stands for Masks, Social distancing and Washing hands, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Parents and guardians are urged to stick with their students’ current education model until the next marking period, when they can switch from remote to hybrid learning, or vice versa.
The Board of Education will hold its next meeting online on Sept. 9.
The district will also continue to host its Wellness and Health Family Series webinars in partnership with Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
The links will be posted on the district’s website at freeportschools.org.