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Long IslandEducation

In summer program, a lesson in how to safely reopen schools

This week's top stories

1. Oakdale learning center could serve as a model for school reopenings in the fall

The in-person summer program for 275 students with special needs, operated by Eastern Suffolk BOCES, could serve as a model for schools as they prepare to reopen in a few weeks. Over the course of the six-week program, no students tested positive for COVID-19. That could be due to the safety precautions that would start before children would even arrive at their schools.

Students were spread across five sites for in-person instruction. At Premm Learning Center in Oakdale, there were just 44 students. Julie Lutz, chief operating officer at Eastern Suffolk BOCES, said the experience could help educators across the Island. Though serving the special needs population is different, there are certain procedures all schools can follow, she said.

Before bringing in their students, parents were asked to confirm that children have not tested positive for COVID-19. Staffers would take students' temperatures before they entered the building. Extra furniture and other equipment were moved out of classrooms and hallways to foster greater social distancing. The staff was provided with personal protective equipment. Lutz said hand-washing was emphasized, and extra time was built into the classroom schedule to disinfect spaces. There were also polycarbonate dividers available to separate teachers and students.

Read the full story.

2. Riverhead schools cut $2 million in sports, music and other programs

Put simply, the Riverhead school board had to choose this week between cutting programs for students or laying off teachers and staff. They chose to cut the programs. How did they get here?

  • The district's $147.1 million spending plans was rejected by voters in two consecutive ballots. The second attempt failed by just 59 votes.
  • This is the only district on Long Island that will be operating on austerity conditions during the challenging 2020-21 school year.

Read the full story.

3. Board of Regents appoints its leader, Rosa, interim commissioner of education

Betty A. Rosa, the state Board of Regents chancellor and a longtime advocate for changes in standardized testing, will take direct control of the state Education Department as interim commissioner on Friday.

  • Rosa's shift means she will leave the Regents board, a 17-member policymaking group.
  • The appointment has been described as unprecedented by experienced educators as it takes place at a pivotal moment for schools. 

Read the full story.

4. What about school buses? Questions remain as districts move closer to reopening

Local school bus industry stakeholders praised the announcement that schools can reopen, but they said there are still questions about how students will get to and from school safely.

  • Among the issues for some school bus drivers: whether older drivers will be reluctant to work amid the pandemic; the number of students on buses; and adhering to social distancing protocols.
  • With one month to go before schools typically open, Corey Muirhead, president of the New York School Bus Contractors Association, said the time frame is tight to have buses ready to roll in September.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

  • Turns out math can be fun when you're playing these games! Students can practice math by grade level or skill using these 1,000 fun and interactive apps and games. Visit MathGames.com.
  • Time to brush up on reading and writing before school starts up again. Check out this children's website that teaches basic English reading and writing skills using games and phonics. Visit Starfall.com.

Your questions answered

Have questions? Send them to ednews@newsday.com. Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week. 

Is the 6-feet social distance rule indoors enough to keep students safe? Nicholas  

Doctors and public health experts tell us that sending children to classrooms this fall should be relatively safe under these conditions: infection rates remain low, safety protocols are strictly enforced, and family circumstances don’t put them at higher risk.

State infection rates have continued to hover around 1% in New York for weeks. Schools released their reopening plans to parents over the last two weeks, which Cuomo said had to include protocols to reduce spread of the virus, testing and contact tracing. Medical experts caution that infection rates could rise in the cooler weather of the fall, as people spend more time indoors, and urge districts to be prepared to quickly reverse course if conditions worsen.

“The risk is low, but not zero, and if we’re not cautious, things can flare and we’ll have to take steps backward,” said Dr. Leonard Krilov, chairman of the pediatric department at NYU Winthrop and chief of its division of pediatric infectious diseases.

For more, read our Frequently Asked Questions on reopening schools.

Round of applause

A Valley Stream student’s original film was one of only three submissions statewide — and the sole one from Long Island — to win an Award of Excellence in this year’s National PTA Reflections Contest.

Students from Brentwood High School and Sanford H. Calhoun High School were among the winners of a local essay contest themed around bullying prevention for autistic and developmentally disabled individuals. 

A Great Neck student was among 161 nationwide named U.S. Presidential Scholars, which is considered among the nation’s highest honors for high schoolers.

— Find the latest education news at newsday.com/long-island/education. Catherine Carrera can be reached at catherine.carrera@newsday.com or on Twitter @CattCarrera.

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