School district officials across New York have spent recent months mulling their options to reopen schools, while maintaining social distancing guidelines and adhering to other coronavirus guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. They were re-quired to submit their plans to the State Education Department for approval at the end of July, and Sewanhaka and Franklin Square officials publicized their plans last week.
Elmont School District officials, however, were expected to release their plan to reopen schools on Monday, after the Herald went to press.
Under Sewanhaka’s proposal, half of the district’s more than 8,000 students would learn in school one day and remotely the next, while the other half would do the opposite. Siblings would be assigned to the same schedule.
“With the size of our school populations, we can’t fit everyone into school every day,” Superintendent James Grossane said in a video posted to the district’s website last Friday, explaining that classrooms can accommodate a maximum of only 15 students with social-distancing measures in place.
Any student enrolled in the Life Skills or special-education program, including the English Language Learners Program, could attend school in person every day, and any parents who did not feel comfortable sending their child to school could opt for a full remote program with district teachers. Anyone interested in this option must select it on a questionnaire, which district officials sent to parents, by Aug. 10.
Remote learning, Grossane said, would comprise live instruction on Google Meets, some recorded instruction, independent work, project-based activities and research-based work.
The schools, meanwhile, would be cleaned throughout the day, and hand sanitizers would be available in each classroom. All staff members, students and visitors would be required to complete a health screening with a temperature check before entering the schools each day, and wear face coverings inside the buildings and on school buses — although, Grossane noted, there would be periodic “mask breaks” for students.
Additionally, the hallways would be designated one-way, and the staircases up or down wherever possible, and students would be dismissed from their classes on a staggered schedule to reduce hallway capacity. They would also be required to bring home all their materials — including iPads and textbooks — every afternoon, as hallway and gym lockers would not be available.
Cold lunches would be offered in a socially distanced cafeteria under the plan, and any student who becomes ill during the school day would be isolated until a parent or guardian could pick them up.
“I understand that these are difficult and trying times,” Grossane said in the video, “but please understand that the faculty, administration and the Board of Education of the Sewanhaka Central High School District is doing everything possible to bring our students back to school, and to make sure that we have a robust educational experience until the time when we can return back to a normal school year.”
He added that the district’s first day of classes would be postponed to Sept. 10 to provide teachers with additional training on remote learning tools, and said the plan is “a living document. District officials would keep the public updated about changes.
In Franklin Square
The Franklin Square School District is proposing a full return to school with a virtual learning option for kindergarteners through sixth-graders when classes begin on Sept. 8, and a hybrid program for preschool students.
Under the proposal, preschool students would be assigned to one of two groups, each comprising nine students, and would attend school in person twice a week. When they were not in school, they would be assigned activities to complete, and one day a week would be virtual for all preschool students.
All parents and guardians would be required to complete a questionnaire each day to ensure their child does not have any Covid-19 symptoms, and every student and staff member must undergo daily temperature checks. Nobody would be allowed to enter the schools with a temperature higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Each classroom in the district would be equipped with a sanitizing station, containing a sink and extra masks, under the plan, and any student who could physically wear a mask must have a doctor’s note. Students who become sick during school would be sent to an isolated room.
The district would also use painter’s tape, posters, stickers and cones in communal spaces to ensure one-way traffic, and doors and windows would be kept open for ventilation. Additionally, the schools would be cleaned daily using electrostatic sprayers, which use a specialized solution that is combined with air and atomized by an electrode to adhere to surfaces and objects, and each child must have his or her own set of supplies, textbooks and workbooks.
District officials would also stagger arrival and dismissal times to alleviate foot traffic, and all students would be required to wear masks when entering, seating or leaving a bus. Bus drivers would be equipped with personal protective equipment, and would be required to wash their hands after each run.
Only one student would be allowed to sit in each seat of a school bus, unless the students are siblings. As a result, buses would only be able to accommodate a maximum of 24 students, rather than the more than 60 students a bus could normally hold, which is why district officials are sending parents a form asking if they would like to decline transportation for the year.
Any parent who is uncomfortable sending their child to school during the pandemic could also sign up for virtual learning. “We believe that parents should have a choice,” Superintendent Jared Bloom said.
The virtual program would comprise two hours of direct live instruction, as well as independent and group work and project-based learning, Bloom said, and would enable the district to have a plan in place if schools were to shut down again.
State Education Department officials are expected to approve school districts’ plans later this week.