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Valley Stream District 13 officials discuss plans for new year

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About a quarter of all Valley Stream School District 13 parents and guardians have opted to enroll their children in a full remote learning program, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Judith LaRocca announced at a Board of Education meeting on Aug. 18, one day before the deadline to enroll in the program. The district serves students in Elmont and Franklin Square.

Students enrolled in the remote program would follow a daily remote learning schedule that would include live teaching, small group instruction and individual work on SeeSaw or Google Classroom, LaRocca explained to parents that night. Every other student in kindergarten and first-grade would automatically be enrolled in a full in-person program, while students in second- through sixth grades would be enrolled in a hybrid program.

Those classes would be split into two groups, one of which would attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with remote learning on Wednesdays and Fridays, while the other group would do the opposite. Siblings would be assigned to the same group, and all students would learn remotely on Mondays.

“We were very meticulous about what we could do,” said Superintendent Constance Evelyn. “We took a very conservative and cautious approach.”

The school year would begin on Sept. 3, at which point parents would be required to fill out a survey every morning ensuring that their child does not have any Covid symptoms. Attendance teams would then ensure that these surveys have been filled out, and if it is not, district officials would try to contact the student’s parent or guardian. If they could not be reached, a nurse would take the student’s temperature.

Any student who develops Covid-like symptoms over the course of a day, meanwhile, would be brought to a safe room, and any area he or she uses would be closed off for 24 hours. Additionally, any classes that have to quarantine would be taught remotely by their classroom teacher, who would also be quarantined.

Under the district’s plan, children would also be assigned seats on a school bus, and only one bus would be allowed to unload students at a time. The students then would enter their school building at different locations to minimize contact. 

Class sizes would range from 12 to 18 students, with desks kept six-feet apart. District officials have also ordered clear barriers for each desk, which are expected to arrive on Sept.5, and are mandating that students wear masks at all times, except for when they are eating. The teachers, Evelyn said, would also provide constant “support for the social and emotional health of our students, and educate our students about the reasons why we need to socially distance.”

Children would also be discouraged from sharing materials, and breakfasts and lunches would be brought to the individual classrooms, although, Howell Road Principal Frank Huplosky said, district officials are considering letting students use the cafeteria one day a week so that they can get out of the classroom. Recess will also be available, but the district will minimize the use of recess equipment and principals would survey the buildings on bad weather days to see where each class could hold a recess.

The district is able to provide anyone in need with an Internet-enabled device, and every device will be equipped with the programs a student in the district will need over the course of the year.

“We believe we will be ready in the Valley Streams,” Evelyn told the more than 100 parents who expressed their concerns with the plan last week, although, she noted, “Things are changing all the time.”

District officials are still working with teachers to determine how to offer music courses and clubs, Evelyn explained, and will continue to monitor enrollment numbers for both the hybrid and remote learning programs.