Tags Posts tagged with "Five to Thrive"

Five to Thrive

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Families rallied in August asking the Smithtown Central School District to consider five days of in-person schooling for all of the district’s students. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Members of the Facebook page Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group are heading up a car parade Sunday, Feb. 7, in the name of education.

The parents have been proponents of all Smithtown Central School District students returning to school five days a week in person and have held several rallies in front of the district’s New York Avenue administration building.

Currently, while elementary school students have been in the classrooms all five days since the beginning of October, those in the middle and high schools are still following a hybrid model.

During the Nov. 24 Smithtown Central School District Board of Education meeting, school board members addressed an aspirational timeline to have secondary students return to school in-person full time in staggering phases starting in January. However, the move has been postponed twice.

In a Jan. 27 letter, Superintendent Mark Secaur provided district families an update after the school board’s Jan. 26 meeting. The board decided to pause the full return of secondary students until March.

“While we are starting to see improvements with the data associated with the pandemic, we continue to have very real concerns regarding our ability to safely supervise and support the academic program should we increase the number of students in attendance daily,” Secaur said in the letter.

The watchdog group plans to pass all secondary schools in the district Feb. 7 and posted a map on its Facebook page. The group’s administrator said on the Facebook page that those interested can join the parade at any point. Middle and high school students are invited to participate, and families are encouraged to decorate their cars, bring megaphones and make signs.

“Let there be no mistake, you are demanding your full education and school experiences be given back to you,” the message posted on Facebook read.

The car parade will begin at the Smithtown Library – Nesconset Building, 148 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 7 and end at the New York Avenue Central Office at approximately 12:30 p.m.

“We will never stop fighting for our MS and HS kids to have the option to return to school five days,” the message read. “They deserve to have the ability to learn in person every day and stop the loss they have experienced from continuing — let’s make the line of cars be endless.”

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More than 200 Smithtown school district parents and students made it clear that they want children in school five days a week.

On Aug. 11, members of the Facebook page Open Up Branch Brook & Nesconset El!!!! rallied outside of the district’s administration office on Main Street to call for five full days of school when classes start in fall. The group first protested on the site Aug. 5, and Tuesday’s event was held before the board of education’s meeting set for the same evening.

The families are asking for the district’s vacant Branch Brook and Nesconset elementary school buildings to be opened up once again in order for students to attend school five days a week in person starting in September. Currently, Smithtown students will return to school following a hybrid model where they will have in person instruction two or three days a week and the other days learn remotely. 

During the protest, attendees shouted “five full days,” as an overwhelming amount of passing drivers honked their horns and gave the protesters the thumbs up. Some drivers even slowed down to cheer them on or read the signs.

Stacy Murphy, one of the organizers of the Facebook page, said members of the group submitted questions for that night’s BOE meeting. Many in attendance were disappointed that the public was unable to attend even though 50 or less is legally allowed under state COVID-19 guidelines. The meeting was instead viewed via live stream.

Murphy said parents have not been receiving answers to their emails recently and have been directed to the district’s website.

“We want to know the answers,” Murphy said.  “We want to be heard. We are tired of our voices being stifled.”

Jennifer Cuomo said many feel the BOE abandoned a plan to have children in school five days a week and is not doing their job in educating their children. She added she believes they haven’t presented a good reason to not go back five days.

“We have empty buildings,” she said. “We have extra money in the budget. The answers they are giving just aren’t satisfactory.”

Cuomo and Murphy said they believe in keeping the full-time remote option for those who don’t want their children to be in a brick and mortar setting.

“Hybrid is not safer,” Cuomo said. “What it is is equal to less days of education. When the kids are home they don’t have live learning. It’s asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning does not work. We are not teachers at home.”

She added that many parents who are teachers will be returning to work soon, some five days a week in physical classrooms.

“So who’s supposed to be with these children helping them with their schoolwork,” Cuomo said.

Before entering the BOE meeting, board President Matthew Gribbin stopped to hear parents’ concerns. One parent said that he and his wife both work and aren’t able to stay home with their child, which would mean an additional $800 in childcare costs for the family.

When the idea to open up the two vacant buildings came up during the live streaming of the BOE meeting, parents were told to reference the district’s FAQ page where it is stated that if both schools were reopened, and district students were spread out throughout the two schools and currently opened buildings, there will still not be enough room to enforce social distancing of elementary school students.

Murphy said after the meeting that the BOE members have not produced the data to support the claim after parents have asked in emails and board meetings and some parents have even issued Freedom of Information Law requests to get their hands on the information.

“They have no idea if the kids would fit because they don’t even know who isn’t returning, who is keeping their kids home or who is withdrawing their kids to private schools,” she said, adding the survey to cultivate the info was only made available Aug. 12.