The Freeport School District rose to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. From March 2020 onward, the district swiftly adapted to the evolving situation, prioritizing the health, well-being, and education of its students.
By putting in place various support systems and leveraging existing technologies, the district acted as a local trailblazer in addressing the multifaceted impact of the pandemic.
“I must express that it is truly remarkable how, in a unified manner, we have overcome the greatest challenge that has ever impacted us globally,” Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said. “This celebratory time, both locally and globally, highlights the unity and resilience that brought us together. It is astonishing to witness how, despite facing extraordinary challenges throughout this three-year journey, we have effortlessly harnessed our collective strength and power to triumph.”
Even before the pandemic, the district had established measures to address learning challenges and mental health needs. That foundation served as a strong base to navigate the challenges that emerged in March 2020.
As the pandemic peaked and schools temporarily closed, the district quickly transitioned to remote and hybrid learning models. It offered both in-person and remote learning options, ensuring that students could continue their education while adhering to health guidelines. That flexible, hybrid approach helped the district minimize disruptions to learning.
“We implemented a hybrid operation, meaning students would attend in person for a couple of days and then remotely for the rest,” Kuncham said. “We made every effort at that time to ensure the schools remained open for our students, following the guidance of health experts to the extent possible.”
The district put numerous initiatives in place to promote students’ well-being. For example, it addressed food insecurity by providing “Grab and Go” meals, allowing all students to access nutritious meals whether they were attending in-person or remote classes.
The district collaborated with organizations like Island Harvest to make sure families received pre-cooked meals or food boxes to sustain them for extended periods. It also partnered with medical centers such as Northwell and Mount Sinai for mental health support, vaccine distribution, and workshops to address emotional and social challenges.
To promote and support mental health, Freeport implemented programs such as the SKY (Strategies for Kids) program, which taught students mindfulness, coping skills, and relaxation techniques.
Assemblies and workshops covering self-esteem, internet safety, anti-bullying, and other topics were organized to enhance positive social skills. The district also established a behavioral health center in partnership with Cohen Children’s Medical Center, offering immediate evaluation and treatment for students in crisis.
The district also plans to create wellness centers in all schools as part of the upcoming year’s budget proposal, according to Kuncham. These centers will serve as calming spaces where students can seek emotional support, practice relaxation techniques, and engage in age-appropriate activities. Trained personnel will provide validation, model healthy coping skills, and deliver mental health interventions.
Recognizing the challenges faced by staff, the district provided workshops and support programs to address their well-being and prevent burnout.
Looking to the future, Freeport is addressing learning loss by starting programs like Saturday academies, enhancing summer programming, and adding more academic support staff.
Recognizing the potential behavioral issues stemming from trauma and distress, the district also maintains a strong focus on providing comprehensive care and support to its students.
“We have come a long way, and have been on a journey to really continue to care for our students, and now, more than ever, we prioritize it as our core responsibility,” Kuncham said. “Over the past three years, we have continuously risen to address these issues through various programs and support systems. As we move forward, we remain attentive to how circumstances evolve and shape our future.”