1. Local districts expand summer school

Nakia Wolfe and students in Amityville.

Nakia Wolfe and students in Amityville. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Many Long Island school districts have expanded summer school programs, as educators work to reclaim some of the lost learning due to the pandemic and try to make kids feel good and safe about school.

Boosted by $1 billion in federal stimulus money, districts are offering an abundance of new and exciting programs aimed at enticing students back to school, including sports programs, dance and art.

Educators said they are focusing on student's social and emotional well-being, following a year of pandemic shutdowns, quarantines and contact tracing.

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2. Protests against mandated vaccines

Protesters gather outside the Stony Brook LIRR station.

Protesters gather outside the Stony Brook LIRR station. Credit: Howard Simmons

About 150 protesters gathered Monday at the LIRR station across from Stony Brook University to decry mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for SUNY and CUNY students this fall.

  • Those in attendance held signs such as "Why are politicians medical experts?" and "My health, my choice." As far as getting vaccinated, they chanted "I do not consent."
  • SUNY officials have said the mandate is pending full FDA approval of the vaccines beyond the current emergency authorization.

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3. Task force member critical of district's diversity work

Smithtown school district building.  

Smithtown school district building.   Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The Smithtown Town Board recently voted 5-0 to appoint two new members to the town's anti-bias task force, one of whom had asked Smithtown Central School District leaders at a school board meeting whether they supported "instructing white parents to become white traitors and advocate for white abolition."

  • Linda Donnelly made those comments at a May 25 board of education meeting, during which she also said the district’s diversity work was a cover for critical race theory. At a July 6 meeting, she said students were being "brainwashed" and "indoctrinated."
  • District officials have said they do not teach and have not adopted critical race theory, a body of academic thought centered on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation's institutions.

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4. Former track coach stars in documentary

Former Mepham High School track coach Paul Limmer. 

Former Mepham High School track coach Paul Limmer.  Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The opening-night film at the Stony Brook Film Festival this year will be"The 5th Man," a documentary on Paul Limmer, a former track coach at Bellmore's Mepham High School.

  • "The 5th Man," produced by Dexter Braff — one of three Bellmore-raised brothers who attended Mepham High — paints a picture of Limmer as a coach who during a 35-year career helped his athletes achieve their best, both on and off the field.
  • During his tenure at Mepham from 1962 to 1998, Limmer turned the school into a track and field powerhouse with at least 737 wins, according to the filmmakers.

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5. Islip students plant native garden

Students at Islip Middle School plant a garden with their...

Students at Islip Middle School plant a garden with their teacher. Credit: Linda Rosier

"If you build it, they will come." That is the theme of a new curriculum developed by Islip Middle School eighth-grade science teacher AnnMarie Mills this past school year.

  • Mills worked with 26 students, a garden designer, school and district officials and four environmental groups to create a garden at the school to help restore the ecosystem.
  • It was just planted on June 3, but it holds the promise of a restored ecosystem, bees and butterflies, clean water and the lifelong convictions of a group of middle school students who spent a pandemic learning about how to care for a world that is bigger than them.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

Suffolk County Community College.  

Suffolk County Community College.   Credit: Danielle Silverman

  • Applications are open for the state's Excelsior Scholarship — free tuition at any SUNY or CUNY college, including at the community colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties — for New York residents who meet income guidelines and complete 30 credits per year.
  • Students can register for SAT exams. Dates and deadlines have been posted by College Board.
  • To boost summer learning, PBS is offering free virtual summer tours of sites across the country.

Round of applause

The Stony Brook School's robotics team.

The Stony Brook School's robotics team. Credit: The Stony Brook School

Teams from Hicksville, Stony Brook and Bethpage were the winners this past spring in Long Island's LEGO and Tech competitions hosted by the nonprofit For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, known as FIRST.

Hicksville Middle School's Meteorites Cubed team took home the Champion's Award, which recognized the team that best embraced the tournament's core values while achieving excellence and innovation, at the FIRST LEGO League Challenge Long Island Championship.

The Stony Brook School's SBS Bears team won the Top-Ranked (first place) Award and Inspire Award (first place) at the FIRST Tech Challenge Long Island Championship.

Bethpage High School's Regal Eagles team won one of three Chairman's Awards, the top honors, at the FIRST Robotics Competition Awards Show/Gala de la Compétition de Robotique FIRST.

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.

What activities are available for teens this summer who missed out on so much last year?

Teens on Long Island are all about making up for what they may have missed out on last summer.

"My teen daughter and her friends made a wish list of things they want to do," says Glen Head mother and teacher Debbie Ilberg, 51. "They want to settle from this crazy year and make up for lost time."

Kathleen Tierney, 53, of New Hyde Park, says her teenage son Brian was at first "a little nervous" about calling his friends to get together for his 16th birthday. "It was the first time he'd had a group of friends over to our house in a year," Tierney explains. "As soon as the boys got together, they had a great time." Now, their plans include a Shark Dive at the Long Island Aquarium and a trip to Splish Splash.

WildPlay at Jones Beach features a challenging series of zip lines and obstacles that run parallel to the ocean. "When you come to the park, you’re not just going to do something fun and forget about it. Our goal is to help teens discover what they can and can’t do," says Adam Karp, the general manager.

Similar activities at the Adventure Park at Long Island in Wheatley Heights are also about bravery and bonding. Candie Fisher, vice president of sales and marketing, describes the experience as a "Ninja Warrior"-style course, a combination of high ropes and obstacles.

— Find the latest education news at newsday.com/long-island/education. Joie Tyrrell can be reached at joie.tyrrell@newsday.com or on Twitter @JoieTyrrell.