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Suffolk School Notebook: Plainedge wins 'What's Great in Our State' Award

Plainedge School District has been named the winner

Plainedge School District has been named the winner in the school district category of New York State's 2020 "What's Great in Our State" Award. Pictured here, students receive a mental health lesson at Plainedge High School. Credit: Plainedge School District

Plainedge School District has received a prestigious state award for its focus on mental health.

The district, which has about 2,700 students, has been named the winner in the school district category of New York State's 2020 "What's Great in Our State" Award. The district was presented with the award last month during a virtual celebration.

Plainedge's efforts include establishing a mental health partnership with Northwell Health that gives "concierge-like" services to students and families and assists them in connecting to on-site services and resources, district officials said. It also provides a school psychiatrist for four hours a week and dedicated mental health professionals who help make referrals that are tailored to each individual's insurance-approved providers, among other things.

"The Plainedge School District is excited to be … recognized for our hard work addressing the mental health needs of our students," said the district's director of special education, Bridget Murphy. "We are now entering a second year of our partnership … and we cannot be more grateful for our ability to address the needs of the Plainedge community during this unique start to the academic year."

During the 2019-20 school year, Plainedge conducted 36 psychiatric evaluations and connected more than 80 families to ongoing mental health support, according to Murphy. Issues ranged from learning disabilities to eating disorders.

"Having a safe stigma-free environment where children can address behavioral health struggles and have direct linkage to services can make a tremendous impact on a child's future success," New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan said of Plainedge.


'Run to Florida'

Third- and fourth-graders at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School are simulating a 1,108-mile dash to Disney World through a fitness initiative called "Run to Florida."

Each class gets credit for one mile for every lap a student completes on a running course created behind the school by physical education teachers Colleen Charles, Robert Claps and William Maisel. Remote learners can do laps outside.

The initiative also incorporates math and social studies components by having kids discuss historical and geographical facts as they reach different destinations along the way, Maisel said.


Fall learning

Many schools have been hosting fall-themed learning activities to incorporate the changing seasons into the curriculum.

In Bayport, kindergartners at Academy Street Elementary School read a biography about "Johnny Appleseed," the pioneer nurseryman credited with introducing apple trees to several states in the 19th century. They also made "apple volcanoes" using baking soda and vinegar.

In West Babylon, second-graders at Forest Avenue Elementary School discussed the life cycle of a tree and used their five senses to identify similarities and differences between summer and fall.

In Copiague, kindergartners at Susan E. Wiley Elementary School followed a flow map to learn how to carve pumpkins, which they turned in jack-o'-lanterns.


Virtual all-state concert

The New York State School Music Association (known as NYSSMA) will hold a virtual music concert and festival for about 900 students selected for its 2020 all-state ensembles. The concerts will consist of the following ensembles: vocal jazz, instrumental jazz, wind, string orchestra, treble chorus, mixed chorus, symphonic band and symphony orchestra.

Students will work with professional music directors preparing the music and record it individually this fall. The recordings will be synthesized using a professional recording company and culminate in a concert of all-state performances in the winter or spring.

"Music lives on in all of us as we continue to strive for excellence in a strange world," said NYSSMA president David M. Brown.


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