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Wantagh secondary students returning full time

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As vaccinations are administered and new cases of Covid-19 are beginning to fall, middle and high school students in the Wantagh Union Free School District will gain some semblance of normalcy – a full, in-person schedule.

Sixth grade students will transition to traditional classrooms and seventh and ninth grade students will receive daily, in-person instruction starting March 15. Grades eight, 10, 11 and 12 will begin full-time, in-person learning starting March 22.

Formerly, students were alternating between attending in-person classes and remote classes as part of a hybrid model. Parents will have the option of having their child learn from home for the remainder of the school year.

Parents gathered virtually over Zoom Monday night to discuss the transition plan with district superintendent John C. McNamara, Wantagh High School Principal Dr. Paul Guzzone and Wantagh Middle School Principal Anthony Ciuffo.

The Nassau County Covid-19 positivity rate is currently 4.49 percent, months after positive cases spiked around the holidays. McNamara explained that the district had actually begun forming transitioning plans back in October, but due to the increasing numbers at the end of 2020, they had to walk back those plans.

“We feel like we’re at a point now that we can start to look at things again,” said McNamara.

In total, 215 students and 50 staff members in the district have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the school year. At Wantagh High School in February, the rise in cases there, 49, were directly linked to a social gathering, McNamara said.

“That led us to pause things last week at Wantagh High School,” McNamara said. “Our numbers have really come back down since then, which we’re happy to see and it seems we’re heading in a really positive direction again.”

But even with numbers beginning to decline within the district and the county, Wantagh Schools are still facing Covid-19 related hurdles, and that’s space.

“We’re able to really maintain distancing in our classrooms with our current hybrid model,” McNamara said. “As we transition to more students, students are moving closer together. We can no longer maintain the five or six feet of distance.”

Students will instead have four feet of space unless they are in a classroom where six feet of space is possible. Because of this, the district will have to mandate additional quarantining in the event of a Covid-19 positive case.

As students return to a full, in-person school schedule, McNamara asked of students and parents to continue wearing their masks, washing their hands, distancing when possible and to limit their social gatherings.