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Uniondale schools reopen with 90% of students online

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The Uniondale School District reopened Sept. 3 with just under 90 percent of students — or 6,300 of 7,043 pupils — attending class online for the 2020–21 school year. That left 743 students attending in person.

The figures were released at the Sept. 15 Uniondale Board of Education meeting, which was live-streamed, but which also had board members who attended in person, including President Charmise Desirè, Vice President Justing Brown, trustees Mary Bediako, Adelina Blanco-Harvey and Carol Easton, and student representative Valencia Hopkins.

Acting District Superintendent Rhonda Taylor noted that a great deal of time was spent planning for live lessons that take place in person and online, known as synchronous lessons. “We spent a lot of time providing professional development for our staff, centered around synchronous learning,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure scholars spent their time in a synchronous learning environment where the teacher and peers are live, and scholars are able to work together.”

The board meeting also focused on how the district was protecting students and faculty from the coronavirus, noting that, as of press time, there had been no Covid-19 cases to date.

“We have had a very successful reopening,” Taylor said. “We spent the summer ensuring we did a lot of deep-cleaning and putting a lot of protocols in place to make sure our scholars and staff return in a safe environment.”

The board discussed the ways in which they have helped students prepare for online learning, handing out 3,400 devices to families who did not have them, and thus could not take classes online before.

In a survey on the school district’s website with 939 responses, 37.4 percent of parents in the school district said they strongly agreed with the idea that school should not resume in person in September, and that students should learn virtually. In another poll, only 10.8 percent of parents said they strongly agreed that school should resume as normal, with the overwhelming majority of respondents wanting classes to continue online.

While the board meeting was live-streamed on Zoom, some members of the public attended the meeting in person. People present included mostly school district retirees who were honored throughout the meeting. In all, 17 retirees were recognized over the span of the night, including teachers and staff who impacted students.

PTA Council Vice President Barton Maxwell thanked the Board of Education “for what you’ve done” in reopening the school district. “As a parent, you have no idea how much stress is taken off me. I am so grateful, and I know you have received criticisms, and unfortunately you will receive them. But know that you have a huge supporter in me. You have ensured that my son can still have a quality education, and I have a huge debt of gratitude for each of you up here.”

Board of Education members also addressed the audience, not only as trustees but also as parents. Blanco-Harvey said, “I am so fortunate that I sit here before you and am able to tell you, as a parent and a board member, that I walked through the buildings to make sure that safety came first when returning students and staff to our buildings. Of course, it is a work in progress, because on a daily basis things may change. Overall, it is most important to make sure students are getting a proper education.”

The next meeting of the Uniondale Board of Education will be Oct. 6.