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Elmont superintendent updates parents on return to school

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One week after announcing that students in the Elmont Union Free School District’s hybrid learning program would return to school for five days a week, Superintendent Kenneth Rosner discussed the change with parents in two Zoom meetings on Sept. 29.

“I’m proud that we’re able to take the next step,” Rosner said in the earlier meeting, noting that he had promised parents over the summer that he and other district officials would re-evaluate the district’s hybrid learning plan as the school year progressed.

The district originally proposed the hybrid model for the 2020 - 21 school year to comply with social distancing mandates. In July, Rosner told parents that the average classroom would be able to accommodate only 13 students with those guidelines in place, so district officials decided to divide each regular class — which could exceed 20 students in years passed — into two cohorts, with classroom teachers and special-area teachers alternating between the two groups.

Students in kindergarten through third grade had been attending school in person Mondays through Wednesdays under this model since the school year began on Sept. 10, while fourth- through sixth-graders had attended school in person on Thursdays and Fridays. On days they were not in school, the students worked at home and met with teachers virtually.

Under the new plan, which Rosner said had been vetted by the district’s safety team, however, students in the hybrid learning program will attend school in person for five days a week. They would continue to have lunches delivered to their classrooms, and the classes will remain divided, with one cohort learning core curriculum from the classroom teacher before lunch and receiving specialized instruction in the classroom in the afternoon, while the other group does the opposite.

To accommodate for the increase in students inside the school buildings, Rosner said, classes comprising only five or six students were collapsed, and each classroom would be cleaned and disinfected more frequently. Still, he said, classes will remain small, and desks will be placed six feet apart.

Any parent who does not feel comfortable having their child return to school full time, however, can enroll their child in the district’s virtual learning program, which Clara H. Carlson Principal Stacia Walfall said, has been enhanced with 80 more teachers. The district is also planning to add more specialized instruction to the program, Rosner said, adding that district officials had met with a physical education teacher prior to last week’s meeting to discuss creating a virtual physical education program.

“We’ve got your backs on this,” Rosner told parents.

But some continued to express concerns about the change to in-person learning. One parent asked how the district would accommodate students who are participating in the virtual program, but would like to return to school in-person after the first semester ends. The district is still finalizing the plans for January, Rosner said in response, and will keep parents informed about the plan in future Zoom meetings.

Another parent also questioned why district officials decided to send students back to school full time when Covid cases are increasing. Nassau County reported a 1.4 percent positivity rate at the end of September, according to data from the State Department of Health, and the district had already reported four positive Covid cases.

“We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe,” Rosner told the parents, noting that he is monitoring the infection rate every day, and will take action if the infection rate in Elmont starts to increase.

“I will not think twice about shutting down our schools,” he said, and asked every parent to keep their child home if he or she is feeling ill.