Unlike other neighboring districts, Comsewogue is holding off on plans to bring more kids into school until late February or early March, citing the steadily increasing COVID-19 numbers on Long Island.
Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said the decision was made partially based on a survey released to both parents and students as well as by the reopening committee that comprises staff, parents and students. She said the Suffolk County Department of Health also suggested now was not the best time for bringing in more students.
“We said since the beginning, our plan is fluid,” she said in a phone interview. The district has changed several things since schools opened in September, including accepting rapid testing where initially the district was wary of the tests’ veracity, bringing back music class, hot lunches and allowing more students to use playground equipment and have more students together during gym.
In the November survey for district residents, the results of which were posted on its website, Comsewogue got responses from a little under 750 students. Of those, 88% said their mental well-being was average or better, on a scale of 1 to 5.
As for remote work, survey results show about 40% of students spend more than three hours on remote work a day, while 30% say it’s two-to-three hours, and about a quarter of students said they spend less than that. The vast majority of students said an earlier deadline on remote assignments would not make life easier.
The district said it expects the average remote workload should be between 3.5 and 4.5 hours, excluding AP classes. District officials said the survey results show they are doing the best job they can under the circumstances.
“We don’t want our students staring at the computer screen all day,” said Jennifer Polychronakos, assistant superintendent for instruction.
A total of 40% of students said they would be comfortable returning to in-person learning without social distancing and masks, while 60% percent said “no” or “not at this time.”
The district also got responses from 160 district parents, of which almost 90% said their children are coping with current learning standards, based on a scale of 1 to 5.
Around 70% of parents said they would not like to see students return to school without masks or social distancing.
Quinn said the question was composed to effectively say the district could not hold students in-person all at once and still maintain social distancing.
Other schools are pushing ahead with reopening plans. The Port Jefferson School District has tentatively set an early January date for bringing students in for four days a week. The Rocky Point school district this week started bringing back students for four days of in-person learning.
At Comsewogue, Quinn said she and other people on the reopening committee are concerned about rising COVID infection rates and hospitalizations. Back in July, New York State set the limit that the infection rate could be at to reopen was 5%.
The superintendent cited Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who said Sunday, Nov. 29, the U.S. was expecting a difficult Christmas time in terms of both COVID-19 infections and related deaths.
“The risk of making someone sick is a concern for us right now,” Quinn said. “You listen to Dr. Fauci who said our country might be closed — I want to keep our schools open.”
The district is hosting a board of education workshop Dec. 3 where the superintendent said in a call to parents, they will be discussing what the district will do if the area is designated a yellow zone by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), entailing 20% weekly testing of in-person students and faculty in schools. The next board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.