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Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence school districts work through uncertainty

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The coronavirus pandemic has thrown off routines for people in all professions, particularly for public school districts. Future scheduling for the Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence school districts for the remainder of the school year and next is unknown.

In Hewlett-Woodmere, Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino Jr. explained what has been taking place throughout the health crisis. “Hewlett-Woodmere has had to incorporate short- and long-term planning in order to address the pandemic,” Marino said. “We have also sought to identify and address the instructional, wellness and financial implications of closing our schools. “

The Covid-19 outbreak has not only impacted scheduling in Lawrence, but also staff as the district laid off 22 full-time employees and 80 school aides and furloughed five staffers as of April 15, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Jeremy Feder. 

Scheduling for the budget vote is also still to be determined after Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on March 28 delaying all school elections until at least June 1. Cuomo also ordered schools to stay closed until May 15. Originally, the budget vote, trustee elections and voting on propositions was May 19. 

“We’re waiting for further guidance from the state as things are changing regularly with the pandemic,” Feder said. “That’s as honest as I can be right now.” The proposed budget for Lawrence is $102,490,053, a .04 percent tax-cap increase over the current $102,449,281 budget.

Marino shared a similar sentiment to Feder regarding the uncertainty about future scheduling. “Our teachers have worked diligently to engage our students with meaningful work and support while trying to balance the needs of their own families,” Marino said. “Decisions regarding graduation and all of our end-of-year celebrations will be dependent on our return to school.”

While no date has been established, Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education President Mitchell Greebel acknowledged that the vote will need to happen before July. “As of now, there is no date,” he said. “We need to get it done before the fiscal year is over on June 30 so we need to have a budget in place by July 1.” Hewlett-Woodmere’s preliminary fiscal plan is $126,882,632. It also has a $12,645,293 in state aid, a $314,366 increase from the current budget. It appears that state aid could be cut by 20 percent if the federal government does not provide financial support, Cuomo said on Monday.

Lawrence Superintendent Ann Pedersen noted everyone’s obligations and was appreciative of her students’ efforts amid the turbulent times. “Following social distancing guidelines remains our shared responsibility,” she said. “We are proud of our students for their academic work ethic and for handling the tremendous emotional pressure of this crisis.”

Despite the uncertainty, Marino noted that Hewlett-Woodmere is always ready to lend a helping hand to the community. “There is no greater priority than the health and safety of our students, staff, and community,” he said. “We encourage all community members to comply with the recommendations to remain safe and well. We stand ready to assist community members in any way possible during this unprecedented time in our world.”