Updated: Six Months After Shutting Down, School Districts on Verge of Reopening

When students walk through the doors of their school doors starting Tuesday, they’ll find big changes from mid-March when buildings abruptly shut down  for what was supposed to be a brief period of time because of the Covid-19 epidemic. 

Instead, the shutdown stretched into nearly six months, costing high school seniors their graduation, others their college visits or plans to attend college, and still others classroom or  summer and extracurricular activities.

And many students won’t be walking through the doors at all, at least for now, because their parents have chosen the remote-only option. Parents are trying to size up what works best for their children, their jobs and themselves, with many unknowns remaining. Districts, meantime, are trying to thread the needle of restoring education to a somewhat normal state while coping with extraordinary heatlh and safety needs and fears.

Hanging over school reopening is the possibility of an outbreak of Covid-19. The Huntington school district, which has posted about 20 links to information related to Covid-19 and reopening, wrote,

How will a school or the district respond upon receipt of information that an individual who displayed symptoms in a school building is confirmed COVID-19 positive?

Please understand that there is a chance that this will happen! The District will follow local and state guidelines for reporting confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. The nurse or an administrator will notify and consult with the Suffolk County Health Department, as well as provide information that allows Health Department officials to initiate contact tracing. Those deemed to have been in contact with the confirmed positive individual must quarantine for 14 days. This may impact a class or classes, or an entire school.”

Before sending their children to school, parents in many districts are required to check their children’s temperature. When they do arrive, often spilt into sections determined by the first letter of their last names, they will face such changes as more temperature checks, indicators on floors telling them where to walk or stand, and classrooms with fewer classmates, who are spaced out from each other and separated by partitions. And they will face limits on the extracurricular activities that many choose to explore non-academic interests as districts try to focus on getting the basics of getting education back on track.  

Many districts have tried to resolve complex transportation commitments by asking parents to pick a plan and stick with for at least one month to a quarter. It remains to be seen if parents change their minds if a Covid-19 outbreak occurs or if their children beg them to be allowed to join their friends in the classroom.

    • In the Half Hollow Hills district, with 7,543 students, 746 elementary pupils will be in full remote option, and the rest in in-person; at the secondy level, with a hybrid model, 650 secondary students have chosen full remote, with the rest in a hybrid system.
    • The Elwood district has about 15 percent of its students, K-12, going full remote.
    • Northport reported that about 10 percent of its students chose full remote.i
    • In South Huntington, about 25% took the full remote route,

One of the major issues still not resolved is the return of sports. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said certain sports he considered to be safer, such as soccer, tennis, field hockey cross country, and swimming, can begin practicing and then playing  on Sept. 21. But the state superintendents organization disagreed, asking for a delay until January so that they could focus on getting schools reopened safely. 

How to cope with changes needed to accommodate bilingual students, special education needs, and provide the technology needed for remote learning now and should the districts have to suddenly close down again, are all among the hundreds of adaptations required of  districts in recent months. Some of those technological needs includ helping teachers adjust to the mixed style of teaching, providing mobile hotspots for students whose home wifi isn’t adequate for remote classroom work and ensuring everyone who needs them has the Chromebooks or other tools that they need. The demand for some technology has cost districts millions and some won’t be in place in the first week or two of reopening.

Schools, which over the years have had to step up to deal with social needs, such as lack of adequate food at home and emotional struggles, are working to help even more  as many parents remain out of work or children cope with the loss of family members to the disease.

Meantime, the state continues to direct school districts on how to safely reopen. Starting Tuesday, the districts are required to report each day the number of known positive cases in each school. The information will be publicly available on a new online dashboard developed by the Department of Health, here  as of Wednesday.

“Many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans, but as I’ve said from the beginning, those plans are only as good as their implementation,”  Cuomo said. “Parents and teachers are understandably concerned about schools reopening. I hope this will give teachers and parents some confidence that the plans are being implemented and if there’s a positive case, they will know and DOH will know and the locals can respond quickly.”

Reopening plans for districts in the Town of Huntingotn.

Cold Spring Harbor  Sept. 8

Commack  Sept. 14

Dix Hills Sept. 8

Elwood Sept. 10

Harborfields  Sept.8

Huntington Sept. 9

Northport-East Northport  Sept.10

South Huntington  Sept.8


Huntington school district/Spanish language forum

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