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An unusual first day of school in Glen Cove

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First day of school outfit, check. Backpack, check. School supplies, check. Face mask, check. 

Children of Glen Cove returned to school on Sept. 14 for the first time since March and social distance, plastic dividers, temperature checks and masks are just part of their new classroom routine. 

Robert M. Finley Middle School psychologist Courtney Farrell said that new aspects of daily life, like wearing masks and social distancing shouldn’t be too difficult for the students because it has become a new social norm. 

“I think, especially socially and emotionally, it’s very imperative for the children to be together as long as we do it the right way and we’re safe,” Farrell said. “Obviously safety is our priority. I think it’s a great thing for our students to be back in the classroom learning. There’s a special type of learning and connection that you really have face to face as opposed to virtually.” 

For many sixth graders, she said, heading back to school is an adjustment as it is. And many children will have to adjust to their new routines after months of distance learning. “Everybody is really adjusting, not just the students,” she said. “It’s a new era here.” 

And part of the new era for middle and high school students is having three cohorts of students alternating between in-person and digital learning throughout the week. There will be two cohorts at the elementary school level, alternating between in-person and digital learning. 

“At the elementary level, as it stands right now, we are going to have two cohorts; one that comes on Monday and Tuesday and the others that come on Thursday and Friday,” Glen Cove City School District Superintendent Dr. Maria L. Rianna said in August of the plan. “Wednesday will be remote for all students [and] they will have instruction five days a week; two days a week [they] will be physically in the building and three days a week remote.”

Kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students will alternate between in-person and digital learning as well.  

The district formed a Reopening Task Force back in June to address the different aspects of the classroom, such as disinfecting, social distance and mask wearing. According to a letter from Rianna, the district is tasked with making sure that each classroom is meeting guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments. 

“In addition to instituting enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures for our school buildings, classrooms have been redesigned to ensure required 6-feet social distancing between desks, protocols have been put in place to allow for multiple opportunities for hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers, masks will be required, signage has been posted throughout our buildings regarding social distancing, one-direction movement in hallways has been instituted where necessary, and much more,” Rianna said in the letter. 

Jeffrey and Valarie Gonzalez, parents of a second grade Deasy School student, said they were pleased with the district’s transparency in its reopening plans.

“It’s a little nerve wracking,” Valarie said. “The principal and teachers did a virtual tour of the classroom so they made us feel very comfortable.” 

“They responded to every question we had,” Jeffrey added. “The teachers and the principal here are great. We’re very happy.” 

And both agreed that in-person learning is more effective for their child. “Today’s the first day, but we think so,” Valarie said. 

Tisa Difruscio, the mother of a kindergartner, said she was also excited to have her child back to a normal routine, even with the changes in place to ensure student and staff safety. “She’s doing hybrid, she’ll be in school Monday and Tuesday and the rest of the week she’ll work from home.” 

“I’m going to be a teacher now,” Difruscio laughed