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Malverne, West Hempstead schools remain optimistic

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With schools not expected to re-open until at least April 29 in New York state because of the coronavirus pandemic, both the Malverne and West Hempstead school districts have continued to move forward with their learning-from-home initiative.

In West Hempstead, students have used numerous apps and web programs for online learning. Teachers have held videoconferences to share tips and teach lessons, and staff members have created videos for their schools, turning a challenge into an opportunity to enhance learning opportunities.

“The West Hempstead School District is rising above the uncertainty as a phoenix rises out of the ashes,” said district Superintendent Daniel Rehman.

Teachers have continued to plan a more rigorous and interactive program of instruction, Rehman said, and more interdisciplinary learning opportunities are in the works as well. He added that he hoped the district would continue to push boundaries and try new learning strategies to meet students’ needs.

“This process takes time and patience,” Rehman said. “Teaching in a brick-and-mortar setting and teaching in an online world are two different types of instruction. I applaud our entire district as we make this transition. Learners need to be free to work individually, cooperatively and collaboratively, with the best information available in this technology-rich learning environment.”

Rehman said he expected the district to hit the ground running when schools reopen.

Malverne schools Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund said that administrators had been in constant communication since Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered schools closed, planning ways in which students could continue their coursework at home.

The district has also continued cleaning all schools and facilities. For students who rely on free and reduced-price lunches, the district is working with local officials to ensure that those meals are available.

“As you know, this continues to be an exceptionally trying time for all of us,” Hunderfund wrote in a letter to parents. “Thank you for your ongoing patience and support as we continue to adjust to ever-changing information regarding this health emergency and strive to protect the health and welfare of our Malverne students, staff and community.”

As for school budget votes, Cuomo issued an executive order delaying them until at least June 1. The votes were scheduled to take place May 19. The order, issued March 30, states, “Any school board, library board, or village election scheduled to take place in April or May of 2020 is hereby postponed until at least June 1, 2020, and subject to further directive as to the timing, location or manner of voting for such elections.”

If many new cases of the coronavirus were to continue to be detected, the vote could be delayed further, state officials said.

Pushing back budget votes will also give state and local officials a clearer picture of New York’s finances, after tens of thousands of businesses were forced to close and sales tax collections began to plummet. Cuomo had earlier predicted a $10 billion to $15 billion gap in the state budget, which is unprecedented.

“The state budget was difficult,” Cuomo said in his daily news conference last Friday.

“Given the current climate, a delay in the budget vote is a welcome announcement,” Hunderfund said in a statement. “With more information available regarding possible retirements, as well as calculated savings related to the complete extent of the Covid-19 school closure, the hope is that despite State Aid numbers remaining flat, Malverne may be able to enhance its budget for students in the 2020-21 school year. At this time, the board anticipates its adoption of the budget being moved into May with the potential for a public vote not until at least sometime after June 1.”

Scott Brinton contributed to this story.