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Long IslandEducation

School districts preparing for a return to classes in 'most challenging' times

This week's top stories

1. Could school nurses become the new front-line medics?

With a school year about to kick off during a pandemic, Long Island school nurses have a lot to worry about.

Will they have enough masks and gloves? How to handle situations that haven't been scripted yet? And what happens when students start getting sick?

"Of course I'm concerned," said Barbara Jacobowitz, a school nurse in Westbury. "I'm concerned about the kids being able to socially distance and wear a mask."

Long Island school nurses are doing what they can to prepare, putting up plastic shields around their desks, ordering masks, gloves and gowns, and creating isolation rooms should a child show symptoms of the virus.

The New York State Association of School Nurses says Long Island does not suffer from a major shortage of nurses. But job postings from local school districts have appeared online in recent weeks, nevertheless. 

Read the full story.

2. 'Zoom bombing' of Oyster Bay-East Norwich meeting rankled school officials

A virtual meeting between Oyster Bay-East Norwich school officials and parents was interrupted last week by inappropriate images and sounds that have been condemned by district leaders.

  • “Regrettably, at one of [the forums], someone decided to take advantage of this and use it as an opportunity to post hateful content that was racist, sexist, and indecent,” Superintendent Laura Seinfeld said.
  • “Very inappropriate pictures and text appeared on the screen, while vulgar language was used and comments were made for all to hear,” Oyster Bay High School Principal Sharon Lasher told parents.

Read the full story.

3. Looming state aid cuts amid pandemic have school officials worried

Public schools could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state financial aid because of the pandemic.

  • Local school administrators called signals from Albany of a possible 20% aid reduction deeply disturbing. Any such cuts would most likely fall hardest on poor systems heavily dependent on state support.
  • "Whether this is your third year in education or your 30th, this is the most challenging that any of us have faced," said Ron Masera, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

  • For lessons and exercises in algebra, pre-calculus and other math subjects, visit coolmath.com.
  • Informative, engaging videos for kids on physics, chemistry and other scientific topics are available at makemegenius.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. 

Are private schools, including Diocese of Rockville Centre schools, subject to the same rules of opening as the public schools on Long Island? Does the governor have the authority to close the private schools? — Paul

Private and religious schools are "absolutely" subject to the same reopening rules, according to James D. Cultrara, co-chairman of the New York State Coalition for Independent & Religious Schools.

"All schools — public, private, charter — were required to submit their reopening plans to both the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Education Department, in compliance with both Department of Health and state Education Department requirements. And our schools, like public schools, had to attest to the fact that their reopening plans are in compliance with state requirements."

As for whether Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo can close private schools, Cultrara noted the state legislature granted Cuomo "considerable authority" in March to respond to the pandemic.

"One of the governor's actions was to shut down schools in early spring. Religious and independent schools complied with that order just as public schools did," Cultrara said. "If such an order were reissued, the expectation would be religious and independent schools would once again comply."

Round of applause

Derek Lekhwani’s high school career came to a halt halfway through his junior year, when he spent six days on life support and 51 days overall in the hospital. He questioned if he was going to be able to graduate.

But graduate he did, and as Chaminade High School’s Class of 2020 valedictorian.

After a school year interrupted by the onset of a pandemic, Oyster Bay High School’s class of 2020 partook in socially distanced graduation ceremonies in July.

“We were committed to giving the Class of 2020 the proper send-off and the send-off that they deserved," Oyster Bay Superintendent Laura Seinfeld said.

— 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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