Huntington, Northport, Commack Announce School Reopening Models

Huntington, Northport, Commack Announce School Reopening Models

Huntington High School. File photo

Many students in Huntington’s North Shore school districts will experience a mix of in-person and online learning to start off the school year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gave the green light for schools to reopen come September during a media call Aug. 7.

“You look at the infection rate — we are probably in the best situation in the country,” Cuomo said.

The governor recommended that school districts offer community discussion to find common ground for families and teachers. School districts in New York state were required to submit reopening plans by July 31 unless administrators filed for an extension. 

Huntington Union Free School District

In a July 31 letter to Huntington school district families, Superintendent James Polansky said the 2020-21 academic year would begin with a hybrid model where students would be assigned to cohorts in each school. Each cohort will have days when they attend school in person and when they study remotely. Kindergarteners, however, will attend every day.

“The plan is set to work in ‘phases,’ which will support the incremental shift to more frequent in-school learning for a greater number of students at times when it is safe to do so,” Polansky said in the letter. “Recognizing the concern on the part of some families regarding those medically at risk or experiencing anxiety in the household, we will also offer the option of a full remote (distance learning) program.”

Out of 1,692 parents surveyed earlier this summer, in-school learning was slightly more preferred than a hybrid model, and more than 20% preferred in-school over remote learning.

According to the district’s reopening plan, students in grades 1-6 will be separated alphabetically into two groups. Those with last names starting with A to K will attend school Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while those with last names L through Z will go to classes in person Thursdays and Fridays. The cohorts will alternate attending school on Mondays.

Finley Middle School and Huntington High School students will return to school one or two days per week in four separate cohorts. When not physically in school, students will learn virtually with teachers livestreaming their instruction and mirroring the same in-school, period-by-period schedule. 

The superintendent added in the July letter that classrooms and other spaces were set up to maintain the required 6 feet of social distancing. Students will be required to wear masks but will have mask breaks during the day. Learning spaces will also include translucent barriers to help prevent the spread of aerosol particles.

Families are required to take their child’s temperature before the student leaves home, according to the reopening plan, and the parent or guardian will also be required to answer screening questions on an electronic application. Staff members will be required to do the same before they report to their buildings.

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Superintendent Rob Banzer wrote in an Aug. 2 letter to the community that a team of administrators and teachers created plans for three different possible scenarios. The plans included an in-person option, the continuation of 100% remote learning and a hybrid approach. The district was given an extension by the state to submit its recommended plan by Aug. 7 instead of the original deadline of July 31.

After Cuomo’s Aug. 7 announcement that school buildings could open, the district decided to go ahead with its hybrid plan. According to the reopening plan, all students will be divided into two cohorts, blue and gold. Students in the blue group will attend school in person on Mondays and Thursdays, while the gold group will report to buildings Tuesdays and Fridays. Remote learning will take place when they are not in school. Special education classes and English language learners will attend school every day but Wednesday.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of flexibility, adaptability and resiliency as we move towards the opening of school,” Banzer wrote.

All students and staff members will be required to complete a daily health-screening questionnaire, according to the plan. In addition to students and staff members being asked to distance at least 6 feet, there will be physical barriers in some cases. The plan also includes that masks will be worn on buses and when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. In addition to meals, students will not have to wear masks when sitting 6 feet apart in classrooms.

Commack Union Free School District

While elementary school students will attend school every day in person, secondary students will be in buildings every other day. The recommended plan depended on the district resolving transportation issues, which according to the Commack schools’ website, was accomplished recently.

The district offered families to opt out of transportation for the upcoming school year. The number of riders needed to be reduced was 50% to allow all elementary students to attend school daily, according to the district’s reopening plans.

“The Commack School District is committed to bringing all elementary students back into their school buildings this fall,” the plan read. “Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the number of elementary school riders by 50%. If we fail to reduce our elementary ridership by 50%, elementary students will not be able to attend ‘brick and mortar school’ daily, and students would attend every other day engaging in remote learning on the days they are not in a school building.” 

Currently, buses that usually seat 64 can only transport 22 to allow for social distancing.

Elementary school students in Commack will be divided into groups A and B, with A taking core classes in the morning and then lunch and gym, art and other enrichment classes in the afternoon. The B group’s schedule will be the opposite.

High school and middle school students will have capacity in the building reduced to 50% and students will attend schools on alternating days. There is also a plan for teachers to change classrooms instead of students to minimize traffic in hallways. An every other day school schedule will be applied where the A group will attend school Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the first week and Tuesday and Thursday the next week. Students in the B group will attend Tuesday and Thursday the first week and Monday, Wednesday and Friday the second week. 

Students will be required to wear masks when not seated at their desks and every desk will have a plastic sneeze guard. According to the district’s Q&A on its website, parents and guardians are encouraged to take children’s temperatures at home and will complete an attestation on a COVID app confirming that their child does not have a temperature above 100 degrees. Students’ temperatures will also be taken upon arrival at school with a temperature scanner.