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Comsewogue School District

Comsewogue 2020 Valedictorian Daniela Galvez-Cepeda and Salutatorian Gianna Alcala. Photos from CSD

Two young women lead the top of the class at Comsewogue High School. Valedictorian Daniela Galvez-Cepeda and salutatorian Gianna Alcala have near-identical grade point averages, but both have far different plans for their futures.

Galvez-Cepeda finished the year with a weighted GPA of 102.42. During school, she spent much of her time as student government co-president and French Honor Society president, a member of varsity track and field and Athlete Helping Athletes. In addition, she is a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering team member at Stony Brook University and a National Merit Scholar Commended Student. 

In her free time, she said she was a junior volunteer at Mather Hospital, where since 2017 she answered visitors’ questions at the front desk in both English and Spanish and provided them with comfort when needed. She also shadowed nurses on their rounds with patients.

She said her best memory of high school was her work setting up a donation drive the school organized in 2017 to help the people in Puerto Rico hurt by Hurricane Maria.

“I walked back and forth from the parking lot, unloading cars and trucks and bringing donations into our school’s auditorium,” she said. “My district neighbors were so generous that we filled up our whole auditorium with donations in only one day.”

In the fall, Galvez-Cepeda will be attending Williams College in Massachusetts where she will double major in math and physics on the pre-med track. She said her goal is to be a trauma surgeon, but she added she is excited to explore other options down the road.

Alcala is moving on to college with a 102.26 weighted GPA. She is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Scholar, Women in Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, Art Honor Society president, Science Honor Society treasurer, as well as a member of the cross-country, Country Farms equestrian team and band.

She said her experiences with WISE and Art Honor Society were especially important to her high school career, though her favorite memory was traveling abroad with classmates to Spain, France and Italy.

Though she thanked her friends, family and teachers for inspiring her, she added that Galvez-Cepeda, her friend and competitor for the top academic spot, was also a huge inspiration.

“For the past seven years, Dani has been my most brilliant competitor and one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever known,” Alcala said. “Without her impact on my life, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.”

The salutatorian will be attending the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering to study environmental engineering. She said she wants to work toward a more sustainable world, especially in the textile industry. 

Though the coronavirus cut off in-person learning prematurely for the 2020 senior class, the high school’s academic leaders said though they lacked physical contact with teachers and peers, the important thing is to persevere.

“High school is the foundation that is setting you up for the success that is to come in your life,” Galvez-Cepeda said. “So, enjoy your time with your friends while learning new things in a safe space together.”

Comsewogue Assistant Superintendent Joseph Coniglione and Superintendent Jessica Quinn delivered cap and gowns to high school seniors June 8. Photo from Quinn’s Facebook

With graduation plans interrupted due to the pandemic, local school districts are trying to find unique options to give seniors their send-off.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order June 7 that allowed districts to have in-person socially distanced graduations for up to 150 people after June 26. Comsewogue High School, with around 320 students graduating this year, has opted instead to hold several ceremonies online in the latter half of June. 

“Our plan is socially distant and safe,” said Superintendent Jennifer Quinn.

While graduation is still scheduled for July 23, the district is planning a car parade send-off. Seniors will be asked to drive through the front bus loop at the high school on Thursday, June 25, between 12 and 1 p.m. The district expects to play music and have lawn signs with the name and picture for each graduate. Staff is expected to come to the building and cheer passing seniors.

The district is also planning several virtual and distanced events after classes officially end June 16. The district will host a Varsity Awards Night Friday, June 19, at 6 p.m., a Senior Scholarship Night, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. and a Virtual Senior Prom June 23 at 8 p.m., all via Zoom. The district will then host a senior slideshow drive-in movie June 24 at 7:30 and 9 p.m. at the high school south parking lot.

Port Jefferson School District, with a graduating class of just 85, is instead pushing its graduation tentatively to Aug 1 (rain date Aug.2), hopeful that New York continues its trend of declining infections and deaths. 

Port Jeff Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said that date was decided before the June 7 executive order, but in a poll senior students overwhelmingly asked for a later event that can be held in person. Village of Port Jefferson officials have notified the district theywill allow the district to use the Village Center for both this activity and its senior prom, which is also tentatively scheduled for a day or two after graduation.

“We’re waiting to see if gathering limits are lifted a little bit more and have more guests and families there like we usually have,” Schmettan said.

The village is also giving a unique opportunity for seniors, using its drive-in movies and showing the John Hughes classic “The Breakfast Club” June 20 exclusively for graduating seniors at its location uptown in the parking lot north of the train station. The village is paying for the drive-in expenses.

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson high schools. File photos

All school districts passed their budgets this year, though all are anticipating potential changes in state aid later in the year.

Comsewogue School District:

Residents passed the 2020-21 budget, 2,486 to 863. This year’s budget is set at $96,635,581, an increase of 2.8 percent or $2,660,826. 

District officials are allocating an additional fund balance from operational savings from the closure of the buildings to this year’s budget, resulting in the no tax increase. Last year’s $57,279,755 tax levy, will be this year’s amount as well.

Proposition 2, which passed 2,673 to 680, will call for the district to take $1,500,000 from the capital fund. It will be used for high school improvements including two synthetic turf fields for baseball and softball, high school boiler room HVAC repairs and other classroom renovations. 

Trustees Alexandra Gordon and James Sanchez have been reelected to the board of education each for three-year terms, beginning July 1.

Port Jefferson School District: 

Residents passed the 2020-21 budget, 1003 to 384. This year’s budget is set at $44,739,855, a 1.83 percent increase from last year. This year’s tax levy is $37,356,454, a $457,630 or 1.24 percent increase from the 2019-20 figure. 

The district is expecting to receive $3,863,212 in state aid, an increase of 2.54 percent from last year, but the final amount is still unknown. 

Proposition 2, which passed 1,170 to 210, called for utilizing part of the district’s capital reserve account. The funds will be used to continue replacement of district roofs at approximately $2 million and partially fund replacement of the heating system at the middle school, at approximately $1 million. General fund appropriations are earmarked for the second phase of the security vestibule project at $186,000, replacement of the retaining wall at the Tech Ed building at $300,000 and completing the funding of the replacement of the heating system at the middle school at $500,000.

In the board of education election, trustee David Keegan was reelected with 1,132 votes. Newcomer Ravi Singh was elected to the board with 1,123 votes. Trustee Ryan Biedenkapp decided not to run this year to retain his seat.

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Lily Brosseau, on guitar, and Sydney Antos, both Comsewogue alumni, play and sing to residents and nursing staff of the Woodhaven Center of Care. Photo by Kyle Barr

What a year it has been so far. 

Since the passing of former Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella back in February, the entire nation has been shook by what seems like a crisis after crisis. 

High school students Gianna Pelella and Faith Schlichting perform for the residents of Woodhaven Center of Care in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

But June 2, with school buildings closed and the community only now crawling out from under the rock of months of quarantine, district teachers and officials still found ways to honor Rella’s ideals of service above self. This year, students, faculty and alumni showed their support to a local assisted living facility.

Joe’s Day of Service, which was started in 2018 by special education teacher Andrew Harris, usually includes students, faculty and alumni supporting the community by participating in projects around the district. Past years included cleaning graves at Calverton National Cemetery, cleaning animal cages at local rescue shelters and singing to residents of the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year district leaders had no choice but to think of something different.

Around midday, just under 30 cars crowded with district residents drove through the Woodhaven Center of Care facility in Port Jefferson Station. There, cars honked horns and shouted their support to the residents and staff of the home, who like many assisted living and elder care facilities have seen months of lockdown, and residents are only now able to spend time outside. However, they must be wearing masks at all times out of their rooms, and visitors are still not normally allowed to enter the facility.

“In this time, with everything going on, I think this is wonderful,” said Patricia Cagney, a resident of the assisted living facility and longtime PJS resident. “We need celebration and good remembrances, and that’s what this is all about.”

While the passing cars showcased Comsewogue pride, two sets of musical artists performed for the assisted living residents and to the nursing staff of the long-term care facility. 

Cars lined along Woodhaven Center of Care in Port Jefferson Station to offer their affection to those inside. Photo by Kyle Barr

High school students Gianna Pelella and Faith Schlichting performed renditions of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Lily Brosseau and Sydney Antos, who both graduated from Comsewogue in 2018, presented Drops of Jupiter’s “Train,” with Brosseau on guitar and Antos on vocals. Both said their lives were impacted when college campuses shut down, but they said they plan to attend again when campuses hopefully reopen in the fall. 

“We felt really close to Dr. Rella, and we really wanted to participate in this day of service,” Brosseau said. 

Laura Marinus-Menno, the director of recreation for Woodhaven, said the last months have been especially hard for the residents, but this show of love and compassion from the school community has “lifted the spirits of our residents who are still under quarantine,” and called it “inspirational” as residents came out of their cocoons from being in isolation since March.

She said she is a Comsewogue alumni, as well as her children, and said Rella was “an amazing man.”

District staff and students also performed other acts of community kindness June 2. Residents made signs thanking local businesses, painted kindness rocks to display uplifting messages for essential workers and wrote messages for the community in chalk on their driveways. The school district finished planting sunflowers at Jackie’s Garden at the high school. There is a flower for each senior graduate they will be able to take home when they’re fully grown. 

Harris said such days as this stand in direct opposition to the pandemic and the horrors witnessed for the past several months.

“It’s the antithesis of everything going on,” he said.

Current school boards of Port Jefferson, top, and Comsewogue, bottom. Photos from school districts

It very well could be a challenging next few years for school districts all across Long Island, let alone the North Shore. Districts await with bated breath any announcement from New York State regarding any new mandates, let alone the announcement for when schools could potentially let students back into buildings. Not to mention, the potential drastic cuts in state aid due to major state budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set up committees headed by billionaire Bill Gates and others to look at “reimagining” education, though what that will mean down the line could have major impacts on school district operations.

With that, only two of four local school districts have contested elections, but all still face similar issues. Given these challenges, The Port Times Record has given all board candidates the chance to say what challenges they see ahead for their districts.

For more information about districts’ 2020-21 budgets, visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com/tag/school-budgets

Comsewogue 

With two seats up on the Comsewogue School District board of education, two incumbents were the only ones to throw their names in the race. 

Alexandra Gordon

Alexandra Gordon was first elected in 2011 and has served three terms on the board. A caseworker for the Suffolk County Office for the Aging, she said her knowledge of issues facing the elderly helps frame board decisions in a wider community lens. She currently serves as the boards vice president.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a long time,” she said. “I anticipate significant challenges in state funding, which will result in the need for creative planning and perhaps difficult decisions.”

With three children having already graduated from the district, and one rising senior at Comsewogue High School, she said despite having to create distance learning programs on the fly, the district has seen a 90 percent participation rate, “which I believe speaks volumes,” she added. 

“Nothing can ever replace the connection between teachers and students in person — but our teachers are trying very hard to stay connected,” Gordon said.

The board VP said she anticipates significant challenges with state funding, with which the district will need to plan creatively and perhaps make difficult decisions. With New York potentially slashing funding by 20 percent across the board, she said it would be “devastating” to Comsewogue. The governor also has the ability to modify funding at different points throughout the school year. 

“This poses its own challenge — we plan a budget based on funding the state tells us we will receive,” Gordon said. “Changes to that number mid-year could present problems.”

She said she is working as the chair of the Legislative Advocacy Committee to contact federal legislators about giving aid to the state in its time of need. She added the district will need to vociferously advocate for funding at the state level from state legislators.

“We cannot be passive when faced with these challenges,” Gordon said. 

James Sanchez

A 27-year resident of the district, James Sanchez is running again for his seat on the board. He was first elected in 2011 and works as a dockmaster for the Port Jefferson ferry.

Sanchez did not respond to requests to answer a set of emailed questions by press time.

Port Jefferson

Port Jefferson has two seats open, with one incumbent and one newcomer running for the open spots. Current trustee Ryan Biedenkapp will not be running again to retain his seat.

David Keegan

Two-term trustee David Keegan is again running for school board, having originally been elected to the position in 2017.

Keegan’s day job is as a vice president of sales for Presidio Networked Solutions, a technology services and consulting firm. He said he decided to run again because, “I believe public education is critical and fundamental to enabling the success of our people and our nation.” “Port Jefferson has a rich history of success and it is gratifying to help continue and enhance that, particularly in these times, with both the unprecedented virus and the implications of the LIPA settlement.”

Both those issues are weighing heavily on board members and administrators’ minds. The current budget has had to account with the loss of property tax revenue from the LIPA-owned Port Jefferson Power Station, as well as potential significant reductions in state aid. 

Keegan said the pandemic has forced the district to reconsider everything about how Port Jefferson delivers services.  

“We will continue to be creative, leverage the myriad resources and examples that exist from our peers, and we remain focused on delivering the high-quality education that we expect and deserve for our children,” he said. “I am confident we can do that, but there remains much to do as things evolve.”

Depsite the consistent and expected drops in LIPA revenue, he said the district “could not likely be better positioned to weather this process at this time.” With the question of state aid losses hanging over every New York school, Port Jefferson is in a better position than most, Keegan said. Still, it could mean having to evaluate potential scenarios and seek community engagement if and when alterations to our programs become necessary.

In terms of distance learning, the trustee said there is always room for improvement. 

“Children are clearly being robbed of some special milestone experiences, and a less than optimal educational experience today,” he said. “But we have no choice but to adapt, and I am proud to be able to help this community do so in a way that best serves our students.”

Ravi Singh

Ravi Singh, a 10-year resident of the district from the Belle Terre area, is coming onto the board at a very interesting and anxiety-filled time, yet he said he feels it’s his time to give back “to the place that’s helped raise my children.”

Singh, a gastroenterologist who works in the Patchogue area, has two children in the district, both at the high school level. Though he’s new to much of the financial happenings within the district, he said he’s ready to get in there and start processing it. He understands the potential loss in state aid revenue could have a major impact on programming. 

“We have to look at some innovative ways to deal with it, and what are our options on the revenue side,” he said. “That will be one of the first I look at when I get in.”

In terms of distance learning, he has watched his two sons make the transition, and said he thought the district has done “a decent job, considering how it fell into their laps,” though there is easily room for improvement. He appreciates the fact the program has some structure beyond having students simply complete coursework on their own time, but he said the district should look to making the program more interactive with both their work and with teachers. 

“I’m looking forward to getting started,” he said. 

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson high schools. File photos

With school district budgets and board elections on the docket for June 9 with an extension from New York State, this year’s crop of district spending and revenue plans have had to contend with many unknowns. 

In fact, budgets may change from now until June 1, as the current pandemic holds much in the air. COVID-19, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) estimates, could result in approximately $61 billion less revenue for New York State from 2021 to 2024. The hope rests on the federal government supplying the state with emergency funding.

“It’s very, very hard to plan for the unknown,” said Glen Arcuri, the assistant superintendent for finance and operations at the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District.

The governor has three look-back periods for revising state aid. The last period is Dec. 31.

Though one certainty is the start of next school year will weigh heavily on officials, as many still do not know when students will again walk through facilities’ doors.

Additionally, complicating this year’s votes is everything must be done outside of polling locations. Suffolk County Board of Elections, based on an executive order, will mail ballots to each residence with a prepaid return envelope. A household may contact the district clerks for more information about ballots.

There are still many unknowns, even as districts craft budgets. Nobody could say whether students will have a fall sports season, whether students would have to wear masks and remain apart in the classroom, or whether there will even be the chance for students to learn in-person, instead
of online.

Numbers floated by Cuomo for state aid reductions have not inspired much hope. The governor said without state aid, school districts could see an upward of 50 percent reduction.

“A 50 percent reduction would be very painful for our school district, it would be insurmountable for any other school district,” said Port Jefferson Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister.

All that comes down to whether the federal government will provide aid to the state for it to maintain current budget figures. 

All budget information provided is the latest from the school districts, though it is currently subject to change. If it does, an update to this article will appear in the June 4 issue. 

File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson School District

The Port Jeff School District is for the most part staying to the course established by previous budget presentations. 

Next year’s budget is looking at a 1.83 percent increase from last year for a total of $44,739,855. This year’s tax levy, or the amount raised through property taxes, is $37,356,454, a $457,630 or 1.24 percent increase from last year.

The district is expecting to receive $3,863,212 in state aid, a marked increase of 2.54 percent from last year. However, district officials said while the amounts have been set, there is no word on whether the state will reduce those amounts midstream into next school year. 

“We’ll be working under a lot of uncertainty, from month to month to quarter to quarter,” Leister said. 

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district has been watching the “political push and pull” of state aid reductions closely. 

“The swing in what that state aid is, is concerning to us, and the difficult part is it’s an unknown,” she said. “I think that needs to be drawn upon. There is a lot of advocacy happening to make sure there is some federal money to help with this large deficit.”

Leister added that legislation allowing the district to put aside unspent money from this year into next year’s in excess of legal reserve limits would also help.

Leister said this year’s budget increases are mainly due to the standard labor agreement increases, an increase in the retirement contribution rate and a decrease in debt services. Continuing building improvements included in the budget are the second part of the security vestibule capital project, a new replacement retaining wall to the technical education building, a replacement to the middle school heating system. 

This year’s capital reserve will also be used for some of these projects, including $2 million for continuing work on the high school roof replacement project. 

In terms of reserves, the district expects to use $3.4 million, leaving $14.5 million in reserve at the end of next year. This could be used “to help offset a reduction in state aid,” Leister said. “This is our rainy day funds, and I would definitely classify that as a rainy day.”

Because of the ongoing glide path due to the LIPA settlement, the district will experience a 3.5 percent loss. This is compared to last school year, where the loss was 6 percent. As a result of this smaller loss, there will be an extra $48,185 in power plant tax revenue at $1,477,185.  

Enrollment is continuing on a downward path. In 2014, total enrollment sat at 1,197, which became 1,115 in 2018 and turns to 1,052 in 2020. Along those same lines, Port Jefferson is reducing staff by three teachers, and a total equivalent of five full-time employees overall. That is subject to change as scheduling goes on.

The district also provided estimates for tax rates based on a property’s assessed value. A home with a $12,500 assessed value could expect a $20,466 bill at the 3.5 percent tax rate. On the lower end, a home assessed at $1,600 would see a $2,620 bill. The budget hearing will be hosted May 12 at 7 p.m.

Ballots must be returned to the district clerk’s office no later than 5 p.m. June 9.  Should additional ballots be required at a residence, the district clerk can be contacted by either email at [email protected] or by phone at 631-791-4221.

Comsewogue High School

Comsewogue School District

Comsewogue district officials said they are taking their savings from not operating to the same extent the last few months and, instead of putting it into the fund balance, are carrying it over to next year, boasting that doing so results in a 0 percent tax increase.

District residents will be asked to vote on two propositions, one is the budget of $96,635,581 and the other is take $1,500,000 from the capital fund and use it for high school improvements including two synthetic turf fields for baseball and softball, high school boiler room HVAC repairs and otehr classroom renovations. 

Associate Superintendent Susan Casali said the district is allocating an additional fund balance from operational savings from the closure of the buildings to this year’s budget, resulting in the no tax increase. Last year’s $57,279,755 tax levy, or the amount the district raises from area taxes, will then be this year’s as well.

Despite this, the budget largely remains the same from the district’s March presentations. The $96.6 million budget is an increase of 2.8 percent or $2,660,826.

“We still have to plan,” Casali said. “We’re assuming currently we’ll be opening on time in September.” 

Overall, programming is set to remain the same, the associate super said. The biggest budget increases come from instructional costs, with $819,111 extra going to regular school instruction and an additional $803,412 for special education. The district is adding one full-time psychologist/social worker and one other full-time employee to the technology department.

The district is also adding an additional section to the fourth grade at Boyle Road Elementary.

In terms of state aid, the district is seeing a planned reduction of approximately $150,000, or -0.5 percent to $32,550,000. Last year the district received $32,700,000.

The question of whether or not the district will even receive the full amount of this reduced sum still depends on whether or not the state will hold onto its current budget. 

Due to the rampant change in schedules for the actual budget and board of education vote, this year Comsewogue will be hosting its budget hearing June 1, with the actual vote scheduled for a week later, June 9.

Ballots must be given or posted for receipt by the clerk’s office in the state-issued return envelope by 5 p.m. June 9. Casali said it’s best for residents to catch the mail by June 2 to make sure it arrives on time.

This post was amended May 26 to better clarify the mail in ballots.

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Gianna Pellela and her family volunteering for those in need. Photo from Pellala

It goes without saying that these are difficult times and many things going on that we have never witnessed before. Many articles and news stories appear daily about some pretty bad things going on. However, the focus of this article will be to look at some of the positive things we are seeing; from the eyes ofboth the young and old.

An Intro

By Andrew Harris

Recently, I have seen so many things going on on during this crisis that I haven’t seen in many years. Some of these happenings have been positive, and I wanted to take the time to stop and point some of them out. The first thing I noticed was something that used to be more common, but I have not heard in many years. It was the sounds of playful laughter of young children outside in their backyards almost on a daily basis. I started to notice more and more positive things that are going on and wanted to focus on these things and see if some of our students might see some positivity for a younger persons perspective. I was impressed by what they were noticing, like how helping others helps to take any negative focus off yourself, how young people are staying connected and supporting each other and finally how our environment seems to be improving on a daily basis.

Helping Others

By Gianna Pellela

Gianna Pellela and her family helped collect items for those in need. Photo from Pallela

In this time of crisis, it can be very easy to focus on the negatives in our lives. My family and I have tried to find ways to both occupy ourselves and help others even though we can’t physically see too many people. Being able to focus on the positives makes this quarantined time a lot easier. The situation we are in can really be a good time of self reflection and personal improvement. It can also be used to be a time of unity amongst all of our communities.

While I have done many things to keep up with my own well being, I have also helped in a food drive. This food drive was held at the cafe owned by my church. Throughout the week, the community dropped off food and supplies that all got disinfected. My family and I went to the cafe where we were alone, and we divided these foods and supplies into bags for the community members in need. We also filled bags for nurses and medical workers. These bags had items such as bonnets, masks, waters and more. Then, people drove through the parking lot one at a time and opened their trunks so that we could place the bags into their cars. This was an amazing event that allowed me to give back even considering the circumstances.

Unity in Distance
By Daniela Galvez-Cepeda

Despite the fact that physical contact has been cut off from us during the quarantine, it is important to remember that we are not alone. Through different social media apps and discussion boards, high school seniors are communicating with others about an array of topics.

I have experienced this first hand. Along with my Student Government co-president, we figured it was important to let our whole community know the talent the Comsewogue Class of 2020 holds. That is why we created the @wogue.2020 Instagram page, which posts pictures of seniors and the colleges they are going to. Classmates “liking” and “commenting” on each other’s posts really shows that we can still be connected despite the distance.

Not only are our Comsewogue seniors interacting online with one another, but they are also meeting the people they will go to college with. Since campus tours and visits aren’t available right now, colleges have created special channels for their incoming students to learn about the school they are going to. Students can send a quick text or email to an upperclassman or dean knowing that they will get a response in a matter of minutes. I, personally, have been connected with so many current students and future classmates from my college that it has made my decision to go there so much easier.

These cases show that, even though we are going through some rough times, we can still find alternative ways to build new relationships and make new lifelong connections.

Noticing the Improvements in Our Environment

By Ashley Doxey and Alyssa Morturano

Since it started, the Coronavirus outbreak has devastated most of the world. On Dec. 31, 2019, the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of cases. Since then, there have been outbreaks in 210 countries and almost 200,000 deaths. But the outbreak is also having an intriguing impact on Earth’s environment, as nations restrict the movement of people.

The Coronavirus has halted tourism. Since the lack of boat traffic, the Venice canals are thriving andare clear enough to see the fish swimming below. This lack of boat traffic has allowed for fish, like mosquito fish, to roam the canals. There is still a lack of water purity, but all of the sediment has settled to the bottom. Even swans and dolphins have been spotted in the nearby port. Now, the canal is filled with tiny fish, scuttling crabs, and an array of multicoloured plants.

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, the arrival of fish in Venice isn’t the only improvement this world has seen. People are using less oil, and carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions are falling too. This leads to better air quality. More animals are roaming the empty city streets. The coronaviruspandemic is terrible, but in this time of hardship, we must look at the positives. These environmental benefits are another reason for us to stay indoors.

These are some of the positive things we are seeing from the current situation. Focusing on helping others helps us not be so self-centered and only concerned with ourselves. Learning new ways to connect with others, even virtually, can be positive and even when things get back to normal may help us make new and more connections. Finally, we are all breathing in cleaner air and seeing new environmental improvements all around us.

Perhaps this can remind us to turn off the television, stop watching all the negativity and start seeing and creating more positive things out of all of this.

Family, My Silver Lining

Derek Order

Quarantine. Who would have ever thought at any point in my life I’d be held to a quarantine. I have only heard of quarantines in movies and television. No friends. No girlfriend. No trip to Europe. No gym. My senior fashion show was cancelled, and both my graduation and senior prom are to be determined. Unbelievable.

From the beginning, my mom has told me to try to find the silver lining. There is always a silver lining?  How could there be a silver lining when my senior year is ruined? I am going to college in the fall, and this is how I am going to spend my last few months; quarantined with my family?

And then it occurred to me. Family is my silver lining. I have spent these two months with the most important people in the world. My mom has taught me to cook. I’ve spent countless hours in Monopoly tournaments with my brothers. I caught up on some classic television with my Dad. Entering this quarantine, I thought it would be miserable, but it is not. It is actually a blessing.

Outro: An Adendum

By Andrew Harris

The students who wrote this article did so completely voluntarily and out of the goodness of their own hearts. The additional writing they do is purely on their own and not part of their normal heavy and challenging workload. They continue to impress me during these challenging times. All people are hit hard with what we are going through, but as a student the new normal has changed dramatically. Learning online can be extremely difficult to navigate. Having your sports, graduation and all your in-person socialization cancelled, as a teenager, is difficult to say the least. I applaud them.

Junior attack Xavier Arline drives to the cage for the Wildcats in the Suffolk Class C county final against Mount Sinai last year. With spring season cancelled, there will be no chance for a rematch. File photo by Bill Landon

High School seniors are normally under a lot of pressure come their last year of classes. It’s a time where students have to be thinking about where they want to go after graduation, what they want to do, all mixed in with a sense of finality to their grade school careers. For students involved in sports, it means the last season and the last chance they will have to take their team to county championships or maybe even states. 

Ward Melville second baseman Matt Maurer makes the scoop in a League I matchup against Central Islip last year. The team was hoping for even better this year, before the spring season was cancelled. File photo by Bill Landon

Then on April 22, Section XI made the announcement cancelling the spring sports season.

“After much discussion and consideration, the Athletic Council of Suffolk County has voted unanimously to cancel the spring sports season for 2020 at all levels,” Tom Combs, the Section XI executive director wrote in a statement. “The decision was not an easy one to make, however in what the world is experiencing at this time, it is the most prudent decision to make.”

With the cancellation of the spring sports season due to the ongoing pandemic, those same students now see any hopes of making it to playoffs dashed. Some teams, like the Ward Melville baseball team, might have been looking at their best season yet after making it to Suffolk County championships last year.

“Though we lost in the Suffolk County championship, the juniors were a big reason why they got there in the first place,” said Ward Melville baseball coach Lou Petrucci. “When we heard the news I talked to all the captains, and we talked to the seniors and juniors. They’re upset, but the spin we have to put on it is every time you play a baseball team you have to play it like it’s your last.”

Scott Reh, the Mount Sinai director of athletics, echoed the sentiment that the decision is going to most impact seniors, who he said the decision was “totally out of their control.” Though he and other athletic directors understood why it was done.

“At the end of the day, it’s very important because people are losing their lives, their jobs and the list goes on and on, “ Reh said. 

Mount Sinai girls lacrosse head coach Al Bertolone said his team has been “training every day since school closed,” and that he hosts video meetings with the team and individual groups daily. 

Though the news was hard, Bertolone said they had already participated in a car parade that ran past Mather and St Charles hospitals, which included the entire varsity team, parents, a fire truck, local police and some alumni as well.

“As far as we are concerned the games might have been canceled but our team is still going strong,” he said.

They are planning another car parade for Senior Day, May 14. 

Charles Delargey, the director of PE, health and athletics at the Rocky Point school district, said the girls lacrosse team hosted a senior parade for their 10 seniors last Saturday, and the boys lacrosse has plans to do something similar this weekend. 

Mount Sinai sophomore, then freshman Mackenzie Celauro slides home in game last year. File photo by Bill Landon

At 8:20 (20:20 military time) on Friday, May 1, districts will be turning on the lights and score board of their school football fields. The event is supposed to celebrate the sports teams in their 2020 season, with several schools planning live streams including comments from coaches.

In addition to several videos that coaches and students have put together, homes throughout the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District are displaying ‘Home of a Wildcat Senior 2020’ lawn signs to share in the school spirit. The district is also promoting the NYSPHSAA Mental Health Awareness Week from May 4-8 with social media messages. Plans are also in progress to honor all athletes at the annual athletic awards event which will be held virtually in the coming weeks. 

“Our coaches are in contact with our athletes to help to maintain optimistic attitudes and keep physically active during this time,” said SWR Director of Physical Education, Health, Athletics and Nurses Mark Passamonte.

School sports directors have been doing their best to keep spirits high. Adam Sherrard, the Port Jefferson School District athletic director, shared a video to his Twitter showcasing baseball players practicing, intercutting the video so it seemed the players were tossing the ball to each other.

Port Jeff is planning to host its regular sports ceremonies, including pictures of seniors in their uniforms in May and the signing ceremonies in June, but this time having to bring up each player individually for photos.

Indeed, practicing at home has become the new norm. Players have taken videos and pictures of themselves in their workouts and practices and posted such things to their coaches and teammates in phone messages and online.

Still, many students mourn the loss of their lost season — for some their last. As the bearer of bad news, coaches have done their best to offer consolation and hope for the future.

Matt DeVincenzo, the athletic director at Comsewogue School District, helped craft a video that was released Friday, April 24, on the district’s Facebook going through all the spring sports teams and specifically mentioning the graduating players, thanking them for all their hard work.

“Everyone’s pretty devastated,” DeVincenzo said. “Everyone saw the writing on the wall, and all the kids are affected, but our hearts really go out to the senior class. Unfortunately, they were robbed of last season in high school.” 

Port Jefferson senior Aidan Kaminski, then a junior, looks for an open lane last year during the Class D county final. He will not be able to finish his final senior season. File photo by Bill Landon

The unanimous decision from the Section XI board was a tough one, DeVincenzo said, but all acknowledged the impossibility of hosting sports during the ongoing pandemic.

But beyond the spring season, many still question what will happen in the summer, fall and winter.  All agree it’s still too early to tell.

For students participating in college sports, the National College Athletic Association said students graduating in spring will be eligible for collegiate scholarships as long as they still meet the course number requirements and show a 2.3 or higher GPA in those courses. The NCAA’s evaluations will not look at separate reviews of spring or summer distance learning during COVID-19 closures.

The question whether the coronavirus will impact sports in summer and fall is still up in the air, but with coaches not even aware if students will be back in school by the end of May, that question is leaning heavy on the minds of school athletics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said April 24 he would later be announcing whether schools would remain closed, but as of press time has not yet made the decision. 

Delargey said when the news arrived last week, students were of course disappointed. On the other end, it was also a showcase of how students can show compassion.

“On a call with the softball team where the coach broke the news, after everyone spoke, one of our youngest kids on the team said to the seniors, ‘just want to let you know what an inspiration you’ve been to me.’” he said. “For a young kid to do that that’s amazing says what sports is all about.”

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Jennifer McGuigan's five children work on their schoolwork at home. Photo by McGuigan

By Deniz Yildirm

With the arrival of the Coronavirus, New Yorkers have been forced to practice social distancing and with that, so called distance learning. Distance learning is a relatively new phrase which means a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast and classes are conducted over the internet. And while many teachers at Comsewogue are familiar with online tools, there is still a steep learning curve. 

Don Heberer, the District Administrator for Instructional Technology and Frank Franzese, the district’s Educational Technology Specialist teacher have been working tirelessly to help teachers and students shift to distance learning. 

“Everyone is putting in long hours” Franzese said. “There’s no such thing as a one way email. Every teacher is trying to give their classes a first rate education using technology, even when it’s stressing them out. So I’m going to do everything I can to help.”

Despite the speed of setting up this distance learning, the quality of work is really outstanding. “I’m so impressed with the level of collaboration and dedication my teachers have to making this work and connecting with students.” said Terryville elementary Principal Annemarie Sciove, who has has two young children and said she understands how important it is for children to feel connections with their teachers and the challenges of working from home. Despite this challenge, third-grade teachers Mrs. Sciarrino and Ms. Benson are working together to create some of the most comprehensive google classrooms for their students. So far they’ve uploaded countless resources and worksheets even though it’s their first time using google classroom. Sites like xtramath.org, storyonline.net and classroom.magazine.com are just a few of the websites they’ve shared with students to help them continue to grow at home. And even though spring break has been cancelled, these teachers have found a way to make this week extra special by planning a “virtual vacation.” Students will “visit” special places via youtube and google earth then report back to their teachers. 

“It’s a great learning experience and a warm up to our country report project in May,” Sciarrino said. 

Teachers have also been uploading videos of themselves, including teachers Mrs. Dunn and Mrs. Zoccoli who have created videos for their classes where they are offering support and encouragement. 

Physical education teacher Mr. Chesterton posted a video challenging his students to a jumping jack countoff (he got up to 50 while one student reported 100). This kind of teaching is really meaningful to the kids who are stressed out and missing school. 

Just ask Jennifer McGuigan, like so many parents she is facing the challenge of supporting her five children (the oldest John in college, 11th-grader Joe, ninth-grader Lydia, seventh-grader William and fifth-grader Lila.

 “I want them to know it’s okay and it’s easier to do that with the support of the teachers,” McGuigan said. “It can be a lot sometimes, every one of them has at least five classes they have to check in to but it’s a welcome distraction.” 

She also says it’s helpful to establish a schedule and reiterate that no one is looking for perfection, teachers are just looking for students to do their best. 

Superintendent Dr. Quinn couldn’t agree more, as she’s recently said in her call home, “We’re in this together.”

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School. For students, she has posted a video showing how they can make a temporary library card so they can borrow ebooks.

Printers at Stony Brook University were donated by the Comsewogue School District. Photo from Deniz Yildirim

By Deniz Yildirim

The Comsewogue School District is helping Stony Brook University in the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Comsewogue found out about the project from David Ecker, a professor and director of iCREATE at Stony Brook University. Ecker was inspired by an article he read about a good samaritan producing face shields for a hospital upstate and thought if he could we do it with a 3D printer? He went out the next day with his wife to gather supplies from Joan Fabrics, Home Depot and Staples. He produced a sample face mask that was so impressive, Stony Brook University asked him to make five thousand more. That Sunday morning, Ecker met with his team at Stony Brook University. 

“I designed stations; a station for inspecting the 3D-printed models, another for putting on the weather stripping, inserting the foam, cutting the elastic to size and finally adding the face shield.” Ecker said. “This process allows multiple people to work at the same time while still practicing social distancing.” 

Comsewogue was excited to lend a helping hand by providing over 1,000 yards of filament, the material used to make the frame of the face shield. Comsewogue also delivered five of its MakerBot Replicators and 3D printers for Stony Brook to borrow for this project. Vincent Verdisco, an art educator for over 20 years who teaches Auto-CAD in several of his courses said, “it’s so rewarding to be able to help out during this crisis.” 

Verdisco has been working with Ecker to help improve the mask designs for this project. 

“Now more than ever we have to support one another and it’s nice to show my students the real-life application of what we study in my courses,” Verdisco said. A list of materials and links to the designs are available for free at https://nyinnovate.com/faceshields. 

“It’s a great community effort and I am so thankful we can do this,” Ecker said. “We are doing what we love, innovating to help the front line medical professionals in any way possible.”

Other school districts or organizations want to lend their 3D Printers should contact [email protected]

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School.