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Long IslandEducation

With funds tight and in the shadow of COVID-19, classes are in session

This week's top stories

1. NY educators address how to return to school amid the pandemic

Health and safety concerns that would've been covered in part by state aid cuts looming since the pandemic emerged must be addressed before educators can begin to talk about course tracks and testing, New York State United Teachers president Andy Pallotta said during a Newsday webinar, "School & COVID-19: Inevitable Changes to Education."

The webinar was held Wednesday, following an announcement that NYSUT filed a lawsuit against the state over cuts in school aid for districts across New York. The lawsuit seeks the release of money withheld in July, August and September, and an injunction against future withholding of school funding payments. In June, the Cuomo administration began trimming payments it normally sends to colleges, school districts, and health care and transportation agencies by about 20%.

According to the state Division of Budget, the state faces a pandemic-related revenue loss of $14.5 billion. As a result, the NYSUT said the state is withholding a portion of roughly $2.5 billion to school districts on Sept. 30.

Interim State Education Department Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa acknowledged "the unevenness" of "the delivery and systems we have in place" statewide. But she stressed that, despite the hurdles, everyone needs to work together. "Whether it's hybrid, in-person, remote, we continue to think of the quality of that instruction — and we [need to] continue to ensure a way to deliver that learning process," she said.

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2. William Floyd High senior who defied hybrid plan is suspended for the entire school year

Maverick Stow, the student who repeatedly defied William Floyd High School's hybrid learning plan by showing up at school, has been suspended from school grounds for the 2020-21 term and blocked from attending his prom and graduation, according to the superintendent's decision.

  • Superintendent Kevin Coster said in his decision that Stow, 17, a senior, was suspended through June 30, though the suspension can be revisited in January. Stow's instruction would come from virtual tutors and online teaching, according to the decision.
  • The student's attorney, Christopher Ross of Patchogue, criticized the superintendent's decision as heavy-handed and wrong. "The school's punishment for a student exercising his First Amendment right, in his eyes, and for wanting to go to school, is to remove him from school," Ross said. " … We thought cooler heads would prevail."

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3. 100-year-old started as lunch monitor in Oceanside making $1.25 an hour

Yolanda Imbriano of Oceanside would rise at 5 a.m. to work as a monitor on the school bus until 9:45, take a two-hour break and then get ready for the afternoon route. After turning 100 last month, her doctor advised her to stop working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's the first time in 55 years that Imbriano is not part of the back-to-school routine in Oceanside — and she misses it.

  • Born in the Bronx, Imbriano moved to Oceanside with her husband, Anthony, in 1964, and the couple raised three children. About a year after she moved to Oceanside, she was getting a little bored at home, she said, and her friend suggested she apply for a job as a lunch monitor for Oceanside schools.
  • "Yolanda is the most vibrant, energetic person and always happy to work. She lives life to the fullest, and that is truly living a good life. We will miss her and wish her many more happy years with her loved ones," said Rachael Blackman, transportation dispatcher for the Oceanside School District.

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4. 'Superstar' from Oceanside High School selected state Teacher of Year

An Oceanside educator who has spent 20 years promoting professional growth for classroom teachers was named the state's 2021 Teacher of the Year on Monday.

  • "We are all first-year teachers this year," said Jennifer Wolfe, a social studies teacher at Oceanside High School since 1997. She was recognized at a virtual morning meeting of the state Board of Regents. Wolfe's new title comes with a $1,500 award and a chance to compete for national Teacher of the Year.
  • Wolfe says the health crisis underscores the need for school faculty, not only to serve in classrooms, but also to consult as professionals on issues affecting entire schools and districts.

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5. Suffolk sports officials postpone fall sports until January

Suffolk County sports officials postponed all high school competition until Jan. 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The decision follows Nassau's call to cancel the fall season citing safety concerns. The only high schools that will try to play this fall are Long Island's nine Catholic League schools, which met Friday and decided to continue to stay the course.
  • All fall sports — boys and girls soccer, field hockey, girls tennis, girls golf, boys and girls cross country and girls swimming — will move into three condensed seasons from January to June. The fall sports season will run from March 1 to May 1, but there is a possibility that a few sports will move seasons to ensure no overlap.

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Resources for you

  • Using articles, podcasts and videos, this website gives children easy-to-understand answers and explanations of how the world actually works. Visit HowStuffWorks.com.
  • Fun Brain offers hundreds of comics, games and videos that develop skills in topics ranging from reading to math for children in prekindergarten through eighth grade. Visit FunBrain.com.
  • Highlights Kids offers activities ranging from matching games to science experiments that allow children to learn while still having fun. Visit HighlightsKids.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. This week, we provided the following question.

Where can I get my child(ren) tested for COVID-19 if or when a case emerges at their school?

There are a mix of options for this: pediatricians, health centers, hospital networks and school partnerships with health systems. There also are costs to consider, because while COVID-19 tests are often touted as free, insurance coverage and fees can vary.

Sites operated by the state Health Department, including drive-thru testing sites at Jones Beach and Stony Brook University, are free — but you need to make an appointment. To register, go to coronavirus.health.nyc.gov/covid-19-testing. Long Island FQHC also offers free COVID-19 tests on first and third Saturdays in Elmont and Roosevelt, and second and fourth Saturdays in Hempstead, Freeport and Westbury. For an appointment, call 516-396-7500.

Some Long Island school districts are partnering with health systems on COVID-19 preparation plans and information for families. Northwell is working with about 10 school districts and private schools in New York to mitigate risk and provide parents with contact information and safety tips, according to Nick Stefanizzi, the chief executive of Northwell Direct. He said depending on the situation, Northwell will facilitate helping a child get "the appropriate level of access," which could include getting tested, making an appointment with their pediatrician or booking a visit for urgent care.

Every public school was required by the state to provide testing information for families on their websites.

"As far as when students should get tested, that is case dependent," said Dr. Christina Johns, the pediatric urgent care group’s senior medical adviser. "Being exposed is defined by being near an infected person for 15 minutes at 6 feet or closer. Technically, schools are making accommodations to keep children from being exposed, but the reality is that’s difficult to do with most kids, so the better part of valor would be to get tested." Experts say parents should start out by reading their school’s COVID-19 action plan, a state-required document.

Round of applause

A team of Jericho High School students raised more than $430,000, taking the top spot in a local fundraising campaign and setting a record in the process. The trio, juniors Harrison Berger and Alexandra Gatoff, and sophomore Jake Gershwind — titled Team Just Cure It (2.0) — placed first in the "Students of the Year" campaign of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Long Island Chapter. The campaign asked teams to raise funds for blood cancer research over a seven-week span.

The team also raised the second-highest amount among this year's campaigns nationwide and broke a local fundraising record of $276,000 set last year by a team that included Berger's brother, Ryan.

— 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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