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Franklin Square school district officials discuss reopening plans

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Franklin Square School District officials spent two and a half hours reviewing the district’s reopening plan with nearly 400 residents in a Zoom meeting on Aug. 12, less than a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo requested that school districts hold at least three discussions about their plans with parents and staff.

“The more communication the better,” Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters on Aug. 7.

The State Education Department is leaving the specifics of how to reopen New York’s 749 school districts to the district’s themselves.

Under Franklin Square’s proposal, which officials submitted to the State Education Department at the end of July, all kindergarteners through sixth-graders are to attend school in person every day, and any parents who do not feel comfortable sending their children to school can have them attend a “virtual academy.” All students with Individualized Education Plans will have access to their special education teachers no matter which option they choose.

Preschool students, meanwhile, are to be assigned to one of two groups, each comprising nine students, and are to attend school in person twice a week. When they are not in school, they will be assigned activities to complete, and one day a week will be virtual for all preschool students. Parents can also opt to send their children to the virtual day only, Superintendent Jared Bloom said at the meeting.

He also noted that all interior spaces and buses will be treated with an Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration-approved antimicrobial solution that is proven to be effective at fighting Covid-19 for 90 days, and the sharing of items that are difficult to clean will be discouraged. Additionally, he said, each classroom will have hand sanitizer, and desks will be equipped with shields.

Students will also be required to fill out a form certifying that they do not have any coronavirus symptoms every morning, and will be mandated to wear masks every day. Anyone who comes in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus would receive guidance from the Nassau County Department of Health, and any students who begin showing symptoms would be placed in an isolation room until their parents arrive at the school for pick-up. They would not be able to return to school until they tested negative for the coronavirus, and if a school had to shut down, virtual learning would begin the next morning. 

Students may not attend the virtual program if they are stuck at home with coronavirus symptoms, Bloom told parents, because the in-school and virtual programs are different, and teachers would instead provide the student with work and resources. Any student who must return to school before the end of the year might not be able to return to their home school, although Bloom said, “Our goal is for students to go back to their home schools.”

Additionally, only one student will be allowed to sit in each seat of a school bus, unless the students are siblings, and bus drivers will be equipped with personal protective equipment.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Management Theresa Hennessy also said during the virtual meeting that she is working with building architects and HVAC experts to check the ventilators in each room and determine whether officials can change their settings.

Everything about these plans is “subject to change,” Bloom said, adding that five students in the Extended School Year program attended the John Street School in July with no problems.

Still, parents had questions about class sizes, state requirements, virtual learning, ventilation and special education — all of which district officials tried to answer. They also posted a Frequently Asked Questions document on their social media, and held two other meetings on Monday and Tuesday.