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Hewlett-Woodmere's early childhood center begins full in-person learning

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While the Hewlett-Woodmere School District was scheduled for a full in-person reopening on Oct. 5, the Franklin Early Childhood Center became the first building in the district to begin in-person instruction on Sept. 23, when pre-K to first-grade students returned.

“The district was able to . . . utilize 180 individual testing desks with adjustable legs that are currently not needed at the middle and high school,” Superintendent Dr. Ralph Marino Jr. explained in an email to district parents. “Although the inside of the building may look different, the excitement that filled the hallways and classrooms was familiar and comforting to our youngest learners.”

For FECC students, a new school-day routine begins when their parents log on to an app called Frontline Health Portal and report whether their children have or do not have any Covid-19 symptoms. Parents were also given instructions for dropping their kids off for school.

Some parents expressed their satisfaction with the reopening process. Alyssa Mat, who is new to the district this year, noted that the school has been organized in explaining the details and procedures of its reopening. “I was really worried about the first day, especially coming from Queens, where things are done a lot different,” said Mat, whose two children are in kindergarten at FECC. “The principal sent videos the day before on how the carpool lane will work. They also sent step-by-step instructions on how to use the new Covid-19 app.”

Mat said that the school administration has been “on the same page” as parents as it laid out its reopening plans. “The teachers have been emailing and texting before school started and after school started just to check up on me and the kids to see if we needed anything,” she said on Sept. 25. “My son started today, and he had a hard time at drop-off, as he was crying because he didn’t want me to leave. Within minutes after I left, his teacher sent a picture of him playing with the toys, happy and not crying.”

Marta Meydid, whose 5-year-old daughter is enrolled in pre-K, said that the school has emphasized to students the importance of washing their hands and wearing masks. “All the children were given strings to wear their masks around their necks,” Meydid wrote in an email, “and my daughter was very excited for something as much as a string and just to be around other students, even if she is in a mask for the time being. They have communicated to the children the importance of masks, so they understand their safety and the safety of their peers depends on them as a whole.”

Meydid added that the school had done a good job of communicating every aspect of the reopening to parents. “The communication may have come a little late in the game, possibly days before school was set to open,” she wrote, “but that is understandable given the parameters of communication from the [state] department of education. There were ample schedules sent home detailing precisely where the students were to meet the teachers for their first few days of school.”

The district’s other schools, Marino said, were still on schedule for a full return to in-person learning on Monday. “We understand that there are students at all of our schools awaiting the return to full in-person instruction,” he said, “but please know that the district is striving to begin this mode of instruction for students in grades two to 12 on Oct. 5. We are currently awaiting the arrival of 500 additional desks to accomplish this goal.”