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Oceanside School District students to return to classrooms in the fall

District lays out plans, parents respond

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After preparing throughout the summer for students’ return in September, Oceanside School District officials have released their back-to-school plans.

The comprehensive plans had to follow a 145-page guidance document from the State Education Department and a 23-page instruction guide from the state’s Department of Health. Districts submitted individual plans on July 31.

The plans came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last Friday that based on low infection rates statewide, schools can reopen this fall.

“Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” Cuomo 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.”

With the governor’s approval, Oceanside school officials have finalized their plans for 2020-21.

Oceanside elementary schools

In the Oceanside School District, elementary school students will return to their classrooms full time. They will be contained to cohorts of 15 to 18, with whom they will remain throughout the day. Cohorts will eat lunch together in their classrooms and not travel to other rooms for special classes, such as art and music.

Phys. ed. and recess will be modified to have fewer students together and will be held outside when possible. Desks will be six feet apart, and everyone must wear face masks while indoors. There will be mask breaks throughout the day.

The district also gave elementary school students the option of full remote learning for September through December if their parents did not feel comfortable sending them to school.

Amit Patney, whose son is a sixth-grader at School No. 8, originally wanted to keep his child home from school, but decided to send him after reviewing the district’s plans. Patney said he felt better after reading the safety measures and did not fully understand the district’s remote learning plan, so he opted for in-person instruction.

“[My son] understands what will be entailed as far as what’s expected of him,” he said of the health requirements, “but it’s one thing knowing it and another actually going through it.

“Kids are kids,” he continued, “and it will take a while for everything to sink in. They’re not used to wearing masks and social distancing in school. It will certainly be a challenge.”

Virginia Marmol, who has a son in School No. 3 and a son in kindergarten at School No. 6, said she is disappointed that her kindergartner will not get the full experience of his first year. “I don’t know how he’ll react not being able to play next to his buddy,” she said.

Marmol added she believes school officials developed thorough plans, and she feels safe sending her children back. “I think it’s important that they get back into the school routine,” she said. “Social interaction is really important for their emotional health.”

Oceanside secondary schools

Oceanside Middle School and Ocean-side High School have planned hybrid instruction for students, which means learning will be partially in person and partially online. Secondary schools were not offered a fully remote option, but the district is exploring its feasibility.

Middle school students will be split into the Blue Group and White Group, and have alternating A and B weeks to denote which days they will attend school in person and which they will learn from home. High school students are split into Cohort A and Cohort B. The groups are split based on students’ last names — A through L and M through Z. During the days they will be home, they will receive virtual instruction.

Though these schedules will take some getting used to, they were necessary to allow for social distancing within the school buildings, officials said.

Stacey Mainland, the mother of an 11th-grader and a ninth-grader, said her children are upset that they will not attend school every day, and that they will only see half of their classmates in the halls. “I want them to go back full time, but I understand that they can’t,” she said. “As a parent, you want everything to be normal and OK, and that’s what they want, too.”