Suffolk County

Most local districts working forward to full-time, in-person learning

Vaccination of teachers is crucial

Kate Nalepinski
Posted 3/18/21

When school districts across Suffolk County reopened in September 2020, many announced they’d be operating under a hybrid model of learning to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The …

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Suffolk County

Most local districts working forward to full-time, in-person learning

Vaccination of teachers is crucial

Posted

When school districts across Suffolk County reopened in September 2020, many announced they’d be operating under a hybrid model of learning to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The hybrid model combines face-to-face instruction with online learning. This model reduces the number of students in a building at one time by rotating some students to virtual learning.

But some officials feel that online learning is not sufficient for their children and could impact developmental skills. During a press conference Feb. 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that remote learning was a poor substitute for in-person learning in a classroom. Cuomo urged school districts across the state to get students back to in-person classes five days a week. He said the vaccination of teachers, now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, is crucial.

After nearly a year of remote or hybrid learning models, many Brookhaven school districts have begun the process of bringing students back to the classroom for traditional, in-person learning.

The Long Island Advance took a closer look at how each local district is currently operating and how they aim to welcome their students back in a safe manner.

PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT
Students in grades K-6 have returned to in-person learning five days per week. Similarly, secondary second language learners, special education students, homeless students and some high school students are back to five days per week, superintendent Donna Jones said in an email.

Middle schoolers are set to return to the building March 22, while remaining high school students will return to their building April 5, Jones said.

“We are planning to return all students to school by April 5, five days per week,” Jones said. “Parents that prefer their children to remain on full-remote will have that option for the balance of the school year.”

New York State monitors COVID-19 cases in Brookhaven Town through the COVID-19 Report Card. The online tracker, launched last year, displays the cumulative number of cases since each district throughout the state began the 2020-2021 academic year.

In Pat-Med, approximately 485 students, teachers and staff on and off site, have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year. Of those, 354 were students, or about 72 percent, according to state data.

WILLIAM-FLOYD UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT
William-Floyd uses a hybrid model of learning, where students attend in-person classes four days per week, with Wednesdays reserved for virtual learning, a district representative said. The district also offers a virtual-only option to students who are high risk, have high-risk family members or whose parents are uncomfortable with sending their children to school.

The district is preparing to transition to full-time in-person learning over the course of the next month, officials said. Students in grades K-5 will return full-time on March 22, followed by grades 6-12 after spring break on April 6. The virtual-only option will continue for the remainder of the school year.

Approximately 548 students, teachers and staff in the district have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of the academic year. The majority of those positive cases were traced back to on-site students in the district.

Safety measures, including desk shields, masks, the use of filters with increased Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value ratings, social distancing, and more are currently in place, a district official said. Cleansing and sanitizing efforts occur daily after in-person learning.

“Getting our in-person students back to school five days per week is the next step toward a complete reopening,” William Floyd School District superintendent Kevin Coster said. “Students learn best in person and the social-emotional aspects are also critically important for student growth and well-being.”

On Monday, March 8, the district announced that 14 students and two staff members had tested positive for the virus. Contact tracing was completed and individuals deemed to have been in close contact have been notified of the requirements to quarantine. It’s unclear at this time if those cases are included in New York State cumulative data.

BAYPORT-BLUE POINT UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT
The district maintains a fully virtual and blended in-person model for all students, based on family preference, district officials said last week.

For in-person attendees, all K–6 students are attending school full time, five days a week.

Students in grades 7-12 are following a hybrid schedule and, as of Monday, Feb. 22, students were granted the option to learn at the district’s virtual learning centers, located at the middle and high school, on the days they are scheduled to be learning remotely.

District officials said that “these plans were designed to adhere to the reopening guidance provided to all schools prior to the start of the year, including the need to maintain 6 feet of distance between students in class.”

Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, approximately 168 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus. The majority of those cases were found in on-site high school students, according to state data.

“The district continues to maintain stringent health and safety measures in all of our buildings to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard our students and staff,” a statement from the district said. “We remain in regular contact with our families regarding our reopening plans and continue to assess our instructional practices to identify opportunities to enhance our plan to benefit our students.”

SOUTH COUNTRY CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
This school district is currently operating under a hybrid model of learning and does not have plans to shift to another model at this time.

Superintendent Joseph Giani said that the board of education had previously considered a motion to transition to a five-day-per-week in-person learning model. That plan would have offered a remote-only option to parents and students. However, the motion failed.

Students in the district currently attend classes in-person for four days each week, with one day of remote learning. Some students continue to learn fully remotely.

Giani noted that the winter athletic season has wrapped up, and the spring season has started. In coordination with Suffolk County regulations, all students that participate in high-risk sports are regularly tested for COVID-19.

According to state data, 289 students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the academic year. The majority of those positive cases were found off site in Bellport Senior High School students.

The district has secured COVID-19 vaccine appointments for all interested faculty and staff, Giani said.

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