While the coronavirus pandemic canceled in-person classes for the remainder of the school year, the Hewlett-Woodmere School District has created a Covid-19 task force to help organize the reopening process.
Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino Jr. explained what has been taking place in the school district throughout the health crisis. “Hewlett-Woodmere has had to incorporate short- and long-term planning in order to address the pandemic,” he wrote in an email, responding to all of the Herald’s questions. “We also had to identify and address the instructional, wellness and financial implications of closing our schools.”
The task force has individual work groups that will address focus areas including transportation, facilities, instruction, health and safety, and extra-curricular activities, Marino said.
“Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools has formed the HWPS Covid-19 Reopening Task Force, which is charged with establishing the plan to reopen schools in a manner that provides for the health, safety, and wellness of students and staff,” he stated. “The task force includes members of the District-wide School Safety Team, as well as other staff members instrumental in the reopening of schools.” Marino did not specify how many people are on the task force.
He said that the district is planning to open on time, but noted that there are numerous factors that will determine if that will be the case for the 2020-21 year. “I know many of our residents have questions regarding the reopening of schools,” Marino said. “Please be assured that the district is preparing for the fall, although ultimately, the governor, the state education department, the state and county health departments will determine when and how we open.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his May 21 news conference that the state would release guidelines for school re-openings in June. “The state will approve those plans in July all in preparation for an opening in September,” he said. “But we don’t want to make that decision until we have more facts.”
Board of Education Trustee Paul Critti thinks that having a plan could help avert problems during the reopening. “Everybody had a rocky start to dealing with the pandemic,” he said. “Hopefully, we get over this and don’t have to go through this again, but I’m a realist and I realize this can happen again so it’s important to be prepared just in case.”
Marino added that the reopening plan will be finalized during the summer. “The end result of the task force’s work will be a reopening plan designed to provide for the safety of all stakeholders to the greatest extent practicable,” he said. “The plan will be considered a living document that retains the flexibility to adapt as situations dictate. The plans will be submitted to the New York State Department of Education for review and approval in July.”