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Safety remains top priority in Malverne, West Hempstead schools

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With new health and safety protocols in place, students and teachers in Malverne and West Hempstead are still adjusting to virtual and distanced learning. One month into the new school year, district leaders say they have been pleased to see that students have shown a strong interest in learning, whether it’s remote or in person.

“I understand and agree that learning is different,” West Hempstead Schools Superintendent Dan Rehman said in a weekly update via YouTube last Friday. “I must say that as I walk the halls and buildings daily, I’m seeing both at home and in school, [our] students are engaged in the learning process.”

West Hempstead district buildings have reopened to in-person instruction, with strict distancing guidelines in place. The district divided students in all grades into two groups, and the two halves of the student body have followed a hybrid schedule, alternating between in-person and virtual class time every other day. There have been no reported cases of Covid-19 in the district, according to Rehman.

“Our first priority has always been safety,” he said. “Obviously, there has been a heightened sense of safety because of the pandemic. However, it is my full expectation that our students will continue to learn.”

Going forward, Rehman said, he would like to see a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, which he hoped would increase project-based learning opportunities. In synchronous learning, students learn the same thing at the same time, while asynchronous learning allows them to work independently, at their own pace.

“I believe this will enhance the learning experience,” Rehman said.

Elementary schools in the Malverne School District returned to in-person classes five days a week, while middle and high school students were on a hybrid schedule, in class every other day. Malverne High School temporarily closed and kept to a virtual schedule Sept. 14-18 after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19. In addition, Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis said, the district had a high number of “red flag” responses to a coronavirus questionnaire given to staff and students on Sept. 14: A number said they had been in contact with one or more people who tested positive for the virus.

“Many of the staff members were traveling home, having arrived at school to begin their day,” Lewis said, referring to staff members who returned to the high school. “If additional days are needed for closure at the high school, they will be fully virtual, with live period-by-period classes.”

Malverne High had resumed its in-person learning the following week, and the district has seen no new cases since then. “We’ve all been thrown a huge curveball,” Lewis said, “but we will need to show our children that we’ll lead them through it with safe, healthy practices. All crises can be seen as opportunities to triumph over. We will make the best of our current opportunity.”