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Port Jefferson School District

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The Port Jefferson Board of Education will hold its vote on May 18 to elect three members to the board for a three-year term — commencing July 1 of this year, expiring on June 30, 2024. Four local residents are looking to take those spots. 

Shannon Handley

Shannon Handley has lived with her family in Port Jefferson for 22 years. 

With two children currently attending school in the district ¬— Port Jefferson Middle and Edna Louise Spear Elementary schools — she has become determined to maintain the success of the local schools.

An educator herself, Handley has been a high school English teacher at Bay Shore High School for the last two decades, previously working for three years in New York City’s public schools. 

“I have a passion for education,” she said in an email. “My unique position — as both a parent and a lifelong educator — would enable me to bring valuable input and insight to the board, as I will bring my parenting experience and high school teaching experience to the complex decisions necessary for continued educational excellence in Port Jefferson schools.”

Handley said that if she is elected, she plans to help maintain a strong organizational structure for the district while working closely with the public. 

“I believe I can help to contribute to a climate in keeping with our district’s mission, one that will promote integrity and mutual respect, allow our district administrators to manage the schools, that will allow the teachers to effectively teach, and will foster an environment in which the students can be supported and develop into responsible, independent, adaptable, lifelong learners,” she said.

“Because of my background, I understand how essential it is to serve the diverse values and needs of our community during these unprecedented times while promoting equity and inclusivity for our students,” she said. “My passion for improving public schools, my knowledge of public schools, my commitment to public education and to serving the students of Port Jefferson makes me an excellent candidate for our board of education.”

Rene Tidwell

Rene Tidwell has been a Port Jefferson resident for 20 years.

A mom to a high schooler, and a special education aide in another local district, she said her husband has been a big volunteer within the district.

The incumbent candidate said she is seeking reelection for her second term because the last three years had been “fulfilling.”

“I want to utilize my first term’s experience to help us move forward as we face some challenges,” she said. 

Her concerns, she said, are the declining enrollment and shifting demographics and how those could impact the district’s instructional programs. 

Secondly,  Tidwell mentioned the LIPA glide path. 

“From a budget perspective, ensuring that we maintain a conservative approach as our revenue from LIPA decreases over the nine-year glide path that we have with them,” she said. 

While these two issues are large and concerning, COVID-19 is also thrown into the mix. Moving forward, she said, she wants to continue to face the mandated safety and security protocols for students. 

“There’s so much uncertainty around it,” she said. “There are so many different changing guidelines coming quickly.”

She said she wants to make sure the district stays on top of everything and makes sure there is a safe and secure environment for students, teachers and staff.

Tidwell also has been pushing since before the pandemic for more resources to meet the social and emotional needs of students. 

“I want to make sure we have enough psychologists to support the students in our schools, making sure we have sufficient professional development for our teachers and, again, just making sure that we’ve got programs in place in all three of our schools to make sure that we are identifying and addressing any social emotional needs our students have, particularly now that we’re hopefully moving into more of a recovery period from COVID,” she said. “I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now. I think the impact is going to continue to play out over many years to come.”

Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker is running for reelection with the board.

A father of two, one who graduated from the high school in 2018 and another who is graduating this year, he and his wife moved to Port Jefferson in 2010.

“My wife actually grew up in Port Jeff, and graduated in 1986,” he said. “So, we live in the house she grew up in.”

Originally from Syracuse, Walker is a retired New York State trooper, who is currently working as a physical therapist assistant at Peconic Bay Medical Center. 

Three years ago, he was elected to the school board and he said this run is to continue his unfinished business.

“We’ve done so much,” he said. “We hired a new superintendent, we mitigated the COVID crisis we had the LIPA glide path in our way. The past three years, we’re managing all that, and we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”

Walker said he wants to tackle the LIPA glide path issue and its impact on local residents and businesses. He also is concerned about declining enrollment, and its impact on the schools’ staffing. 

“We have an award-winning [high] school,” he said. “So, we want to make sure we maintain that.”

He added that in continuation with the COVID-19 crisis, he wants to see it through the 2021-22 school year and keep families safe.

“The last three years while I’ve been there, I’ve been really pleased with how we’ve been able to get through the tough times so far and I’m confident moving forward we’ll be able to get through all of our challenges ahead,” he said. “I’ve been very active in the community and I’ve really grown to embrace Port Jeff as my home.”

Walker added he’d like to address the district’s aging infrastructure and find funding for repairs that can no longer be ignored. 

“I like to think our board is made up of a community with diversity,” he said. “So, what I bring is my background in law enforcement and security, along with health care. Everyone on the board, they bring in a little something else to it. And that’s the way boards were meant to be — sort of a cross section of our community.”

Tracy Zamek

Tracy Zamek is seeking a third term as a trustee on the Port Jefferson school board. 

A mom of two Port Jeff high school students — a senior and sophomore — she has been a resident for 25 years. Her husband grew up in the district.

For the past 22 years, Tracy Zamek has been an elementary school teacher in the Hauppauge school district. 

“My experience as a classroom teacher is paramount when it comes to making decisions about what’s best for a student’s education,” she said in an email.

Zamek has been a school board member for six years — two years as vice president — where she said she has gained significant knowledge about the district’s students, curriculum, facilities and finances. 

“I am running for the school board for the same reasons I ran six years ago,” she said. “The first reason being to stand up for the students of Port Jefferson, and the second reason being we need to make smart, responsible decisions when creating our annual budget, especially with the LIPA challenges we are currently faced with.”

Zamek said she has always been an advocate for public education. 

“At community forums I have spoken out against the privatization of public education,” she said. “I don’t believe big corporations should be making the decisions about what’s best for our students. Local school boards should be making these decisions. There is no one size fits all in education.”

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, Zamek said she believes the school board should stay focused during these turbulent times, and that all students should be in-person full time next year.

“We need to do what’s best for the students in Port Jefferson,” she said. “We need to preserve our programs and continue to provide a stellar education.”

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The Port Jefferson School District announce that Mr. Brian Walker has been named assistant principal. In his new role, Mr. Walker will work with Port Jefferson Middle School Principal Dr. Robert Neidig and Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Mrs. Amy Laverty.

Walker joins Port Jefferson after his most recent role in the Middle Country Central School District as an assistant principal at Selden Middle School. He was also a special education teacher for various grade levels for more than a decade in Middle Country and served as principal of the district’s Extended School Year Program for three years.

“I am honored to be in this position, and I am looking forward to assisting Mrs. Laverty and Dr. Neidig in continuing to develop students who are independent, lifelong learners, in a challenging and nurturing environment,” Walker said. “I believe that as a school, we play a fundamental role in positioning students for future success. I am committed to working closely with teachers, parents and community members to ensure our children achieve their full potential and are prepared for the next phase of their educational career.”

Walker earned a Master of Arts in liberal studies from Stony Brook University and a Bachelor of Arts in child study and students with disabilities from St. Joseph’s College. He holds a certification in school building leadership and professional certifications in early childhood/childhood and students with disabilities. He also received an educational leadership advanced certificate from Stony Brook University.

“Mr. Walker’s educational philosophies fit perfectly with our Port Jefferson School District’s core beliefs and dedication to student success,” said Superintendent Jessica Schmettan. “On behalf of our entire school community, we look forward to his enthusiasm and professional commitment to our students.”

Photo and caption from PJSD

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Photo from PJSD

The Port Jefferson Middle School Science Olympiad Team placed first at the Suffolk County Regional Division B Science Olympiad Competition, held as a virtual competition this year.

Students in grades 6-9 competed against 22 teams in events which tested their study skills in the categories of biology, chemistry, earth science, engineering, physics and scientific problem-solving.

Photo from PJSD

The students had a dominant performance and received medals in every single event. The team will compete on April 17 in the virtual state competition. The team is coached by Adam Bouchard, the Middle School Earth Science and Science 8 teacher.

“Every student was highly motivated and showed a lot of hard work in preparing fortheir events despite the circumstances and hardships to overcome,” Mr. Bouchard said. “I applaud their efforts and cannot wait to see how they do at the state level.”

The crime scene outside Dunkin' Donuts in the village. Photo from Margot Garant

It was a tragedy, but local officials say all the right protocols were in place which led to the quick arrest of a Port Jefferson Station man in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old David Bliss Jr. of Shirley.

The incident occurred on Wednesday, March 24, at approximately 3:35 p.m., when Bliss was shot in front of 122 Main St. in the village.

According to a Suffolk County Police Department spokesperson, police from the 6th Precinct were on the scene within 2 minutes, 32 seconds after the victim was hit. 

Mayor Margot Garant said the whole incident itself took less than 10 seconds, from the argument between the two men to the duo in the car driving off. 

“Upon learning of the incident, our code enforcement chief and I immediately headed to the scene,” she said. 

But the police were already there, and once the SCPD steps in, they take the reins on any incident. Upon assessment, the police spokesperson said, the detectives on the scene immediately determined that it was a targeted incident.

“Upon arrival at the Port Jefferson shooting scene, police knew the shooter had left the area in a vehicle immediately following the shooting and a lockdown was not necessary,” the police said in a statement to TBR News Media. “Each incident presents specific circumstances that are assessed by responding personnel to determine if a lockdown is warranted and what radius needs to be covered.”

Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said that although some people are curious and are upset over the protocol, the village did everything within their ability to keep their residents and children safe.

“Everybody wants to know why a lockdown didn’t happen, and the last answer is we do not have that authority,” she said. “We confirmed that with our attorney and we don’t have that right.”

Garant reiterated the same, that although people may think the local government has more ability to shut down a village, they do not. 

“As soon as Suffolk is on the scene, it is their game,” she said. “I do not have the authority to put the village in a lockdown situation. Under New York State law, I do not have that authority.”

Thanks to the village’s street cameras, police were able to get a license plate number and began tracking the vehicle which was already headed into Smithtown.

“The police officer on the scene confirmed the community is not in harm’s way,” Garant said. “He said they are tracking the vehicle in Stony Brook, heading to the Smithtown area and this is very much a one-on-one attack.”

And because investigators on the premise knew right away that the shooting was not a threat to the rest of the village, schools were not put on lockdown.

Snaden, who was watching her daughter’s tennis game at the school, got the call from Garant and immediately asked if a lockdown was needed.

“We can’t say it enough — as soon as the call came to me, my first question to the mayor was, ‘Are the kids safe?’” she said. “Margot was standing with Suffolk police who confirmed ‘yes.’”

Snaden, who is also the community liaison between the school district and the village government, began tracking down Port Jefferson Superintendent of Schools Jessica Schmettan who was already aware of the situation and rerouted the buses to avoid Main Street.

“Everybody was fully aware, and the school was already doing whatever protocol they do in these situations,” Snaden said. “Superintendent Schmettan had already, long before, already known about it and was acting on their behalf.”

Schmettan told the mayor that once she heard of the incident and bus reroutes, she communicated with the SCPD and verified that a lockdown was not needed — all within less than 10 minutes of the actual shooting.

Snaden said that upon learning of the incident, students were brought into the building out of an abundance of caution at the discretion of the athletic director and coaches who had kids outside.

“Upon notification of an emergency situation, our district immediately enacts our safety and security plans to help safeguard our schools,” Schmettan said in a statement. 

“These plans have prescribed actions specific to various potential scenarios and are often guided by the unfolding details of the events transpiring. As the safety of our students and staff remain our top priority, we are thankful to our partners in law enforcement and our village officials for their continued partnership with regard to our safety efforts and for their open lines of communication along every step of the way.”

The next day

Garant said that the next day the village had a debriefing and decided to begin using their CodeRED system for situations like this.

Criticisms have been made that the village should have used the system to let residents know what happened, and Garant said normally CodeRED is used for villagewide emergencies, like natural disasters. 

“If we had used CodeRED in this instance, because of the initial information and the lack of information from Suffolk at that point, the CodeRED would have just said that there is police activity on Main Street, please avoid the area, period,” Snaden said. “It wouldn’t have said lockdown.”

She added, again, the village does not have the authority to lockdown. Only the governor or county executive can make those decisions. 

Garant said that the social media hysteria that happened along the way could have caused more harm than good.

“It’s dangerous, because what happened was parents rushed to the school, there could have been a traffic accident, there could have been who knows what,” Snaden added. “The rumors were extremely reckless.”

Some of the rumors claimed that a student from the Port Jefferson School District was the culprit, another was that it was an active drive-by shooter. Both of those claims ended up being false right away, but the threads kept going.

“It didn’t really matter what we did or didn’t do that day,” Garant said. “My job is to keep this community as safe as possible, and not create more chaos or danger to them.”

But Garant said she did have the executive decision to give the community statements on what was going on. 

“This is because of who we are as government officials that we choose to do,” she said. “Because we feel it’s important. We’re not required to have this line of communication with the district.”

Garant added the CodeRED system currently has 4,800 subscribers and, after last week’s event, they will now use it more consistently.

“I think the thing that we learned from this is that we’re going to use our CodeRED and you need to be on our system,” she said. “You can get a text, you can get a voicemail, you can get  an email. And that’s how you’re going to get alerted from us from this point forward.”

Catching the culprit

“The good news is because of their thorough investigation, they caught the shooter within 72 hours,” Garant said. “That’s exceptional.”

Snaden said the cameras that are throughout the village are state-of-the-art devices, which are hooked up to the Suffolk County Real Time Crime Center — the first village within the county do so.

When the code officer was on the scene, a doctor and nurse bystanders were already tending to the victim, as police headed over.

 “There were good people that did help,” she said.

Snaden added that the village has 37 code officers, plus the chief, who monitor the area, and who work alongside the police. Two more hires are planned for this month.

“We have a good working relationship with the SCPD,” she said. “The code officer that was there was the supervisor at the time and secured the scene. He did what you are supposed to do as an officer.”

On March 27, SCPD arrested Joseph Garcia, 19, of 11 Market St., Port Jefferson Station, and charged him with 2nd degree murder. 

He was arraigned on March 28 and pled not guilty. 

The investigation is still ongoing and details about the altercation between the two men have not been released.

The SCPD encourages anyone with information about a crime to report it to 911 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS (8477).

Stock photo

This week, Long Islanders acknowledged the one-year mark since the coronavirus hit officially hit and impacted the area. In March 2020, schools began to close, as stay-at-home orders were put into effect. 

Throughout the remainder of the school year, districts had to figure out new learning models in a virtual world and create a socially distanced environment when schools opened back up nearly six months later. 

Now, many districts in the area have opted to bring students back in-person all five days a week, hoping to give children, teachers and families a sense of normalcy. 

Rocky Point Union Free School District 

Rocky Point school district has been back full time for K-5 since September, according to superintendent of schools, Scott O’Brien. 

By November, secondary schools began attending in-person classes four days a week, and now have implemented five days as of last week. “Reopening our schools this year and embracing a phased-in approach to safely bring our K-12 students back to school full time was a truly collaborative effort, and I can’t thank all of our stakeholders enough for their unwavering support,” he said. “Our elementary students have been thriving, learning in person full time since the start of the school year and our district was able to successfully and safely increase our in-person learning days from two to four by November for our secondary students.”

He said that “it was clear pretty early into the increased learning plan how much this move tremendously benefited our students, not only academically but socially and emotionally as well.”

O’Brien said that the district is continually working to ensure their learning environments remain safe. 

Middle Country Central School District  

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of Middle Country school district, said that pre-K through grade 8 will be returning to five days April 5. 

For grades 9 through 12, it was be a slower process to ensure everyone’s safety. 

“By the end of the school year, the goal is to be back to five days,” she said. “We want kids to have muscle memory of what it was like to be in school.”

Gerold said that bringing kids back to schools was the goal all along. 

“Kids are missing the classroom experience,” she said. “The interaction, the energy and it’s good for teachers, too.”

She said that they are following all the necessary precautions, including barriers and mask requirements. Due to space limitations, she said that the 6-feet social distancing rule is unobtainable, but desks and distances are closer to 5-feet apart. 

She said it’s exciting to see how happy her students are at slowly coming back to school. 

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s neat to see how excited the kids are and it’s good to start feeling a sense of normalcy again.”

Middle Country is still offering a full virtual option for families who declared so early on. Gerold said right now about 20% of the student population is virtually learning. 

SWR Central School District

Superintendent Gerard Poole said that since September, Shoreham-Wading River has been back full time, five days a week, and there have been no problems for all levels. 

“We have a fully remote option, but about 97% have been attending in person,” he said.

By following all the correct protocols and by reopening a vacant elementary school to help with distancing, students and parents have been thrilled. 

“It’s been fantastic, a huge success,” he said. “It’s good for the students’ mental health, and helps the parents get back to work.”

He said that it takes a collective effort to make things like this happen.

“It can work,” he said. “It does work, and all the other health and safety protocols work. So, I think the fears of COVID are real, but so are the effects of students not being in school every day.”

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September. 

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual. 

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent. 

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days. 

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”

Port Jefferson School District

Since Jan. 18, the Port Jefferson School District transitioned students in grades six through 12 back to in-person learning four days a week. 

“Thus far, we have not seen a rapid rise in our positive COVID cases in our middle school and high school,” Superintendent Jessica Schmettan recently wrote in a letter to parents. “Unfortunately, it has become evident that during this pandemic, our students have not been as successful academically and are struggling with their mental health. We have seen an increase in social and emotional needs similar to those reported in the news across the country.”

She said that from a health perspective, mandating masks, cleaning procedures, hand hygiene and distancing when possible have resulted in minimal transmission within the school. With that in mind, the board of education voted on returning secondary students to in-person learning five days per week beginning on March 8. 

“We as parents are thrilled about that and we as a community are thrilled about that,” Port Jefferson Village trustee Kathianne Snaden said in a virtual board of trustees meeting on March 1. “There’s nothing going to be better for our kids, and then to get them back into school with their friends and teachers and all the things they need in school, we’re so happy about that.”

Schmettan added, “Currently, students very easily shift in and out of the remote environment. Although convenient for parents and families, this irregular pattern of instruction is disruptive

and unfair to teachers and students.”

There will only be a few reasons for virtual learning, including students who opted in for the remainder of the year, students mandated to quarantine due to COVID-19, or students who have a significant documented medical event that will not allow them to attend school for a long duration of time.

Comsewogue School District

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn said that beginning April 6, after spring break, high schoolers will be returning to a normal week. Grades K-6 have been back since September.

“Nothing replaces live instruction,” Quinn said. “The [COVID] numbers are low at this point and we’ve watched from some of the surrounding districts that their numbers are not significantly different than ours. … We want the students to be in school. Live instruction is the best way to learn.”

She added that the district’s teachers and the community as a whole have done “an amazing job during this difficult situation.”

“It’s a hard decision, people are afraid,” Quinn said. “It’s not right for everybody, but the key is this was the plan, and we were working toward this for a long time.”

Comsewogue will still have an option for families to remain virtual.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Joe Coniglione, assistant superintendent.

And while it’s still a difficult time, Quinn said that everyone is excited to be going back to five days.

“We’re going to be as safe as we can possibly make it, and we need students to feel that this is their safe place,” she said. “Overall, the kids are suffering. It’s not normal to be home every other day and not being able to see their friends.”

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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School student Natalie McGuigan is one of this year’s six inductees in the Tri-M Music Honor Society. Photo from PJSD

The Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Chapter 2172 of the Tri-M Music Honor Society virtually hosted its annual honors induction ceremony. 

This year’s six inductees are Natalie McGuigan, Julia Perrotta, Ruby Ray, Anna Rebic, Sierra Welsch and Michelle Wu.

Each student performed virtually after the ceremony, which included an introduction from Principal Eric Haruthunian, and encouraging words of achievement from Director of Music and Fine Arts Dr. Michael Caravello and chapter adviser Ed Pisano.

Caravello commended the students for their continued commitment to creating music. In addition to outstanding musical achievement, students are selected into the honor society on the basis of five points of distinction: scholarship, character, cooperation, leadership and service. 

 

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From left to right; Edna Louise Spears Elementary School Students Clara Pearce, Kemp Garrett and Nina Gnatenko. Photo from PJSD

Fifth grade students in Port Jefferson’s Edna Louise Spear Elementary School have been learning the engineering design process. They have used their skills to construct pompom launchers with a set number of simple objects including straws, popsicle sticks, tape, string and plastic cups to see how far their experiments could go.

As engineers, they examined the materials they could use, came up with their designs and moved on to building, testing, modifying and testing again. 

The students in Kari Costanzo’s class conducted an informal contest to see who developed the simplest and cheapest one (Nina Gnatenko), the sturdiest one (Kemp Garrett) and the one that went the farthest (Clara Pearce). 

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Students in Michelle Landetta's class. Photo from PJSD

It’s no wonder Port Jefferson Middle School students have been treating one another with more empathy, compassion and acceptance.

Students in Michelle Landetta’s class read R. J. Palacio’s bestselling book “Wonder” together, discussed its theme and steps they can take to promote kindness to others. Students and staff decorated and wrote inspirational quotes, positive affirmations and words of hope on the popsicle sticks that were provided to them.

They then created a “PJMS – We Stick Together” bulletin board right in a hallway of the school for all to not only admire their creative work, but to share in their refreshing ideas and promote everyone’s appreciation for the simple and joyful act of friendship. 

Photo from PJSD

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Earl L. Vandermeulen High School’s Brian Veit and Brennyn Veit with News 12’s Kevin Maher. Photo from PJSD

Earl L. Vandermeulen High School freshman Lucy Kwon and art teacher Lauren Lewonka took part in the Suffolk County Art Leaders Association annual Invitational Show, which celebrates the very essence of art education. 

The online exhibition was an opportunity for member art teachers and their selected students to exhibit alongside them, potentially highlighting a creative path and/or link between them.

Kwon’s graphite pencil still life was showcased with Lewonka’s “Grandma’s Recipes” acrylic paint over collage.

As part of its mission, SCALA recognizes the importance of highlighting the physical manifestations that develop out of the mentor/mentee relationship from both perspectives. The exhibit is an opportunity to give visual voice to imagination, exploration and discovery.

Superintendent Jessica Schmettan. File photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Middle School and Earl L. Vandermeulen High School had to go fully remote this week, after parents begged the district to allow their children back in four days a week. 

Up until recently, the district had students come to the high school and middle school twice a week. Parents, concerned about how the lack of in-person learning would have on their children, began asking why the district would not add more days. 

Jae Hartzell, a parent in the district, said she was one of a dozen who voiced their concerns. 

“We really worked, and fought, and emailed, and studied, and provided stats, and really researched to make sure we were fighting for the right and safe thing to do,” she said. 

And their wishes were granted at the latest board of education meeting on Jan. 8, when the board agreed on a vote to let middle and high schoolers back in four days a week. 

But just two days later, on Sunday, Jan. 10, the district sent out a notification that the four days will not happen, and instead, those two groups would have to go remote. 

The notice said that as of that day, there were 26 staff members, including teachers and teaching assistants, who are subject to quarantine due to COVID-19, for a variety of reasons related to their own health, in-school and out of school exposures, and positive family members. 

It continued that after careful examination of the school’s schedules and their available substitute coverage, they determined they do not have the staff to cover the middle and high schools this week. That being said, grades 6-12 will go remote Jan. 12 through Jan. 15, with no change to the Monday, Jan. 11 schedule as this is an asynchronous remote day in the district’s hybrid schedule.

The notice did not affect the elementary school, which will still be open for in-person learning, and staff coverage for the district’s 8:1:1 special education students have not been affected, as the in-person class schedules for these students remains the same.

“As a parent, you see your child go from super happy and over the moon to be able to go back to school, and then flattened a bit with that disappointment,” Hartzell said. “We all have to understand this is very complex and complicated and we don’t have the information, but it’s disheartening.”

Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Jessica Schmettan said the district understands this is difficult news to hear after the highly anticipated return to four days per week of in-person instruction.

“This determination is only for the remainder of this week and we expect to begin this next phase of our reopening plan on Tuesday, Jan. 19 – as long as circumstances permit – when we look forward to having all of our students back in our classrooms,” she said.