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Talking it out

Daily Point

Haze of Port Washington School Daze clears

For those keeping score at home, the Port Washington school district on Friday announced another plan on reopening elementary schools, making a total of three blueprints it proposed to follow over an eight-day period. 

The good news in all the chaos, though, is that the protesters who put the kibosh on the second plan generally support the new one, which will have elementary school kids in class five days a week within eight to 16 days after the semester starts. The district believes it now can meet the needs of almost all students and parents.

Port Washington’s original plan was elementary-school students in class five days a week, with those who opted to stay home watching teachers instructing in-classroom students remotely via computers.

But when the Port Washington Teachers Association raised serious concerns about both the safety of the plan and the ineffective nature of making online learning simply a webcam on a live class, the district abruptly changed course. So, on Aug. 20 Superintendent Michael Hynes announced the district would offer in-person learning just two days a week for each child, and revisit the issue on Oct. 5 with the hope of getting back in class full time.

Opposition among parents mushroomed, first on Facebook, then in a live protest last Monday at Paul D. Schreiber High School, where about 200 people gathered  to demand full-time in-school instruction. They said they needed it in order to return to their work lives and to get their kids the education they say they’re paying for. 

And Friday they got their wish, as Hynes sent out a new letter explaining the latest plan, which is anchored by several promises:

  • All students will be with one classroom teacher

  • Students will stay in one classroom to minimize movement throughout their building

  • All student desks will have a polycarbonate student desk shield 

  • All teachers will be provided with a polycarbonate instruction shield and a face shield

  • All classrooms will be provided with a HEPA filter

  • All buildings were reviewed by an engineer for necessary ventilation and air flow

  • When masks cannot be worn (i.e. lunch), social distancing of 6 feet or greater will be required

Classes start on Sept. 8 and the eight- to 16-day transition period of alternating days in school is meant to give the district time to install the polycarbonate shields.

Parents who want their kids to go 100% remote, the only other option offered, have until Friday to inform the district. The district promises more details soon. And how do the formerly furious parents feel? Justin Renna, who has two children at Manorhaven Elementary and was a primary organizer of the Facebook activism and protest, says they’re pretty happy.

“Several of the parents who’ve gotten involved have a meeting with the superintendent and members of the school board Tuesday afternoon to discuss some remaining concerns, like addressing the hardship of parents who have no child care while we transition to full-time in-class learning. But we are excited that there is a set plan, with a set date, that tells us our kids will soon be back in the classroom five days a week, because that’s what needs to happen.”

Hynes told The Point last week that he was committed to getting the students in the buildings full time when the matter was reexamined on Oct. 5.

Monday, Renna said much of the issue may have been poor communication, because the district did not emphasize the in-school commitment in a way that reassured parents.

But she also thinks the parental blowback added a sense of urgency for the district, which may well be a lesson for parents in other Long Island districts who think their district is getting it wrong.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Uniting around a common cause

There are lots of PACs searchable by name on the Federal Election Commission’s website, but only one with the word “stutter” in it. 

That’s "Stutterers for Joe,” a committee created in August by Long Island public relations pro Mark Grossman, a former Long Island regional representative for Gov. Mario Cuomo. 

“I’ve been aware for years that Joe Biden’s a stutterer, and I’m a stutterer, too," Grossman told The Point Monday. 

The Medford Democrat says hypnosis helped him control his stutter to the point that, as an adult, he has taught communications and public speaking on the college level and performed stand-up comedy on the side. 

Biden’s stutter came into national focus during the Democratic National Convention earlier this month, with the viral video of 13-year-old Brayden Harrington talking about his and the former vice president’s bond over stuttering.

The statement of organization for “Stutterers for Joe” is dated Aug. 20, the same day as Harrington’s speech, and Grossman says he started setting up the committee a few days before. 

Funds raised by the committee will be turned over to the “Biden for President” campaign committee, apart from some small expenses such as boosting Facebook posts, Grossman says. He won’t take a salary and anticipates that an estimated 90% of funds would be turned over. 

He says he’s only raised a few hundred dollars so far, but he hopes to do more by tapping into the many people around the country who stutter. 

As with Biden, Grossman says you might not know from his normal speech patterns that he stutters, but that doesn’t mean the issue is obsolete. 

“It’s a struggle” every day, he says.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Not his fault

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

Long Island mirrors U.S. on reluctance to vaccine 

Recent national and Long Island poll results show that willingness to take any forthcoming coronavirus vaccine may vary significantly by a factor — race.

Findings in both the latest edition of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index and nextLI’s survey of Long Islanders indicate that Black respondents are far less likely to take a COVID-19 vaccine than white respondents when it becomes available.

The Axios poll finds that 51% of white Americans were likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine compared with 28% of Black Americans. nextLI’s poll reveals that 57% of white Long Islanders said they will opt to receive it compared with 28% of Black Long Islanders.

Hispanics say they are more willing to get the vaccine, 56% saying yes in the Axios poll and 52% in the nextLI survey.

Interact with more nextLI survey findings based on race, age, gender and more here.

—Amanda Fiscina @adfiscina

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