This week's top stories

1. Masks optional for summer school

Masks-wearing for summer school is at the discretion of school districts.

Masks-wearing for summer school is at the discretion of school districts. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Mandating face masks at summer schools is now at the discretion of individual school districts, under a relaxed rule issued by New York State's health department.

The announcement expands to summer schools the state’s policy for summer camps, where masking has been made optional.

"Given current low rates of COVID-19 transmission, schools/district may decide to implement revised masking policies" as issued last month for camps, according to the announcement, a copy of which was provided to Newsday by the department.

For now, the masking-optional policy does not cover fall schooling and beyond.

Read the full story.

2. Settlement for former superintendent

Former Amityville Superintendent Mary Kelly.

Former Amityville Superintendent Mary Kelly. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Amityville Board of Education agreed to pay former Superintendent Mary Kelly a $114,000 lump sum and contribute to her retirement account as part of a settlement agreement that called for Kelly to resign, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

  • Kelly agreed to a total settlement of $230,000 in May to resign from the district after serving as superintendent for seven years, according to documents obtained by Newsday under a Freedom of Information Law request.
  • She since has been hired by the Bridgehampton School District at an annual salary of more than $200,000. Kelly declined to comment last week.

Read the full story.

3. District's contingency budget freezes taxes

Three Village Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich.

Three Village Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Three Village's school system, after two unsuccessful budget votes, has adopted a $220 million contingency budget that freezes property taxes for a year.

  • The district, which serves the Stony Brook and Setauket communities, is the only one on Long Island forced to operate under contingency restrictions during fiscal 2021-22, which started July 1.
  • Three Village's board on July 7 formally adopted its budget, which holds property tax collections to $162 million during the current year, the same as collected in the school year just ended.

Read the full story.

4. Rabinowitz retiring as president of Hofstra

Stuart Rabinowitz.

Stuart Rabinowitz. Credit: Howard Simmons

Stuart Rabinowitz first arrived on the Hofstra University campus in 1972 to teach at its fledgling law school, drawn by its newness and ambition. The Bronx native, a lawyer with degrees from the City University of New York and Columbia University law school, felt the school aspired to become "as good as any law school in the country."

  • A law professor, he became law school dean in 1989 and president in 2001.
  • Since 2001, Hofstra has added six schools: medical; nursing; engineering and applied science; government, public policy and international affairs; health professions and health services; and honors college. Enrollment has fallen, however.

Read the full story.

5. Freeport street renamed for teacher

Diane Caruso unveils the street sign for Ernie Kight.

Diane Caruso unveils the street sign for Ernie Kight. Credit: Howard Schnapp

To those who knew him in Freeport, Ernie Kight was a Red Devil for life.

  • The longtime teacher, principal and school board president regularly wore red with pride, to represent Freeport High School, its mascot and the girls basketball team he coached.
  • Following his death Feb. 28 at age 68 after a heart attack, local officials in Freeport and Nassau County said his name should be remembered forever outside Freeport High School.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

Caroline Hobbes of Bay Shore.

Caroline Hobbes of Bay Shore. Credit: James Escher

Round of applause

Bhavana Madini of Plainview,  and her family. 

Bhavana Madini of Plainview,  and her family.  Credit: Family photo

Who knows how a 13-year-old can spell words like "theodolite" and "phylloxera," but Plainview middle-schooler Bhavana Madini did that and more as she battled her way to a third-place finish in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Orlando on July 8.

Afterward, the super speller did what any kid would want to do: She went to Disney World, and then to Universal Studios.

She also gets to bank $15,000 in prize money.

"I'm really glad because I did work very hard," said the honor student at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School who is going into the seventh grade.

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 are the most recent guidelines regarding masks and schools?

Fully vaccinated teachers and students no longer need to wear masks inside school buildings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended earlier this month, but it's unclear if the state will adopt the new guidelines when classes resume in the fall.

The new guidance recommends unvaccinated individuals, including students under the age of 12 not yet eligible for the vaccine, continue to wear a mask and be tested weekly for the virus, despite a nationwide decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The nation's top public health agency also recommended 3 feet of distancing among unvaccinated kids in the classroom, but said its guidance should not prevent classrooms from reopening in the fall.

However, students at New York City public schools will continue wearing masks for the immediate future, and potentially when classes resume in September, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. He said further guidance will be delivered to parents and students before classes resume in September.

— 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.

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