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Elmont UFSD to switch to full in-person learning

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For a month now, students who have opted for the Elmont Union Free School District’s hybrid learning program have been attending school in person two or three days a week, depending on their grade, while learning remotely on the two or three other days. But starting Monday, those students — nearly 1,800 of them — will begin attending school in person every day, Superintendent Kenneth Rosner announced in a letter to parents on Sept. 22.

“As I promised to you during the many summer Zoom sessions,” Rosner wrote, “our goal would be to examine all possible avenues for eventually increasing in-person student attendance, while still following the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, New York State Department of Health and the Nassau County Health Department. Through careful planning and some creativity, we are confident that we can now safely accommodate all students in grades K-6 for five full days of instruction per week, while still maintaining a safe and socially-distant environment.”

The district originally proposed the hybrid model for the school year to comply with social-distancing mandates. In July, Rosner told parents that the average classroom would be able to accommodate only 13 students with those guidelines in place, so district officials decided to divide each regular class, which could exceed 20 students in years passed, into two cohorts, with classroom teachers and special-area teachers alternating between the two groups.

Students in kindergarten through third grade have been attending school in person Monday through Wednesday since classes began on Sept. 10, while fourth- through sixth-graders have attended in person on Thursdays and Fridays. On days they were not in school, the students worked at home and met with teachers virtually.

Under the new plan, the district will collapse some hybrid classes that had only five or six students, Rosner explained to the Herald, while also ensuring that classes remain small, with desks six feet apart.

Students will continue to have lunch delivered to their classrooms, Rosner said, and the classes will continue to be divided, with one cohort learning core curriculum from the classroom teacher before lunch and receiving specialized instruction — enrichment activities, guided reading, writing assignments and project-based learning assignments — in their classrooms in the afternoon, and the other cohort doing the opposite.

Rosner planned to hold a virtual meeting with parents to discuss the new plans on Tuesday, after the Herald went to press, and noted that the change would only affect students enrolled in the hybrid program. The fully remote program, however, he said, would also be enhanced with additional teachers.

“Our plan now closely mirrors 98 percent of the plans on Long Island, without sacrificing any safety measures,” Rosner said, adding, “We are proud of what we’re doing for all Elmont children.”

Marie Leandro Lopez said that her second-grade daughter “loves going to school in person,” and Monique Hardial said she applauded the district for adhering to social-distancing guidelines “while also recognizing the importance of children to be in school learning.”

“I am 100 perent satisfied with the quality of learning that took place virtually as well,” Hardial, who has children in kindergarten and fourth grade in the district, wrote in a message to the Herald, “and the new superintendent has done a great job stepping up to the plate to ensure our children are receiving the best education possible in these unprecedented times.”

Still, both mothers said, they had some problems with the hybrid program over the past month. Hardial said it was “almost impossible” to help her kindergartner with the technology for virtual learning while also working, and Leandro Lopes said she had to make special arrangements in September.

She had to recruit her mother to pick her daughter up from school and watch her until either Leandro Lopez or her husband got home from work, because the Gateway Youth Outreach after-school program was canceled this year. And on virtual days, her sister-in-law had to watch her daughter while she was working.

But now, with the five-day-a-week in-person plan — which Leandro Lopez said she has advocated for “all along” — she said she hoped it would be “easy sailing.”

“We will see how the transition goes,” she said, “and hopefully all stays safe.”

The district reported that one staff member at the Clara H. Carlson School tested positive for Covid-19 on Sept 19, and had to quarantine for 14 days, as did any student or staff member that had been in contact with the employee. Those students and staff members were contacted by the Nassau County Health Department, Rosner said, and the teacher would not be allowed back into the school building until he or she provided the district with a negative test result.