Just as the cancellations of virtually every school activity stopped pouring in, Bellmore-Merrick students and faculty received a piece of stinging news Monday night: A Sanford H. Calhoun High School staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The case, which was self-reported by the unidentified staff member, was announced by Central High School District Superintendent John DeTommaso in a letter to parents. The staffer first reported symptoms on March 19 and is already recovering, ac-cording to the letter.
DeTommaso noted that more COVID-19 cases are likely to emerge in the district, as the number of cases increases daily in Nassau County. One case of the virus had already been reported in the Valley Stream Central High School District and at Lincoln Orens Middle School in the Island Park School District, and there were two cases in the Long Beach School District.
“Please take care of your health and your family,” DeTommaso wrote. “These are challenging times, but we will get through them together.”
On March 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all schools to close until April 1, and the cancellation of other school-related activities soon followed. Regular coursework is still being given to Bellmore-Merrick students through Infinite Campus, an online student management system.
The indefinite postponement of all athletic activities was a heavy blow to the district’s many athletes. Sports are a “humungous part” of John F. Kennedy High School senior Jason Small’s life, he said, but as the school closures started rolling in, “it was only a matter of time” before his second year of lacrosse would end before it began.
“It’s surreal,” said Small, who will play football at SUNY Courtland next year. “We were working since the fall. To not even play one single game feels unreal.”
“I just feel bad for the kids trying to get recruited” for college sports, he added, as younger athletes will likely have fewer opportunities to play in front of college recruiters.
In another development, state English Language Arts and math exams for grades three to eight were suspended indefinitely. Other exams that were suspended include:
The fourth-grade science test.
The eighth-grade science test.
The English as a Second Language Achievement Test for grades kindergarten to 12.
The Alternate Assessment for students with cognitive disabilities in grades three through eight and high school.
The state Regents exams were not yet included on the list of suspensions. Advanced Placement exams will be administered by the College Board in the form of 45-minute online tests taken at home. Any student registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge.
As Bellmore-Merrick teens were turned away from closed shops and parks last weekend, many congregated on school fields or playgrounds. “The medical guidance on this is clear: We must refrain from large groups,” read a letter sent to parents on Sunday.
“On behalf of the Merrick Board of Education and the Bellmore-Merrick Board of Education, we are asking for your help during this crisis,” Trustee Nancy Kaplan wrote on social media. “Despite warning after warning from officials, we are seeing children of all ages and parents congregating together, completely disregarding that we are in the middle of a public health emergency. While our children may not fully understand the gravity of this situation, as adults we surely should. It is up to you to be responsible and help us move through this crisis as quickly as possible.”
Despite the gatherings, other students encouraged their peers to practice social distancing. The Bellmore-Merrick Broadcasting club posted a video called “How to Social Distance” on social media, which contains clips of students sharing social-distancing advice from their bedrooms.
One student in the video said, “This is a time when we need to stick together as a community and think about others.”