Tags Posts tagged with "Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group"

Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group

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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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Parents and children rally in front of the Smithtown school district’s administration office Aug 20. Many in the community are asking for five full days of in-person instruction. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Smithtown families are keeping their eyes on district administrators.

Parents and children rallied in front of the Smithtown school district’s administration office Aug 20. Many in the community are asking for five full days of in-person instruction. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Two dozen parents and children gathered in front of the Smithtown administration building on Jericho Turnpike and New York Avenue for the fourth time in a month Aug. 27. The families were representing the Facebook group Smithtown Parents Watchdog Group: Holding our Board of Education and Administration Accountable! The group was formerly known as Open up Branch Brook and Nesconset El! which was initially started to persuade the Smithtown board of education to reopen up the closed elementary schools. The parents are in support of five days in person for K-12 and believe the opening up of the two elementary schools would allow for proper social distancing, even though the district has stated that it would not. Currently, Smithtown Central School District students will start the school year off following a hybrid model where they will spend two or three days a week in-school and the other days learning remotely.

The Facebook group’s founder, Stacy Murphy, said the group members feel there are other issues to keep their eyes on and decided to change the Facebook group name. The timing of the Aug. 27 rally was to coincide with the board’s Zoom meeting at the same time. Murphy said parents have been frustrated that the board members won’t agree to an in-person meeting even though gatherings of 50 people are allowed, and the attendees could socially distance in a room that can hold 2,000 people.

“They’re using what our country went through, and our state went through, to be their shield of defense to hide,” she said, adding she wonders how much longer they can hold solely virtual board meetings.

Murphy said she feels that with the increased number of parents getting involved more will vote in school board elections and run for the board themselves next year. The mother said another issue parents have is that students will be required to bring their Chromebooks back and forth from home to school.

“You’re telling me when my second- and fifth-grader are in class they’re going to have their face in a screen again, because 50% of the time isn’t enough?” she said. “I want them writing and looking at their teacher’s face and their classmates.”

Murphy and others are asking the district to have a benchmark date for considering when schools can go to a five-day plan.

Parents and children rally in front of the Smithtown school district’s administration office Aug 20. Many in the community are asking for five full days of in-person instruction. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Republican state Senate candidate Mario Mattera stopped by the rally. He said his family, especially his daughter, who is a senior and captain of the kickline team, is upset when they hear surrounding districts such as Three Village and Hauppauge have a five full-day in-person option. He said he believes students need interactions with teachers and friends, and with parents and school administrators working together, in-person can be accomplished safely. He added he worries that children will fall behind in their studies or suffer emotionally.

“Our educators are doing a great job, but it’s not the same unless you’re in that classroom,” he said.

As a parent, Mattera echoed Murphy’s sentiments that the hope is the board will closely evaluate the situation and offer full in-person classes sooner rather than later.

Parents rallied in front of the building once again Sept. 1 to protest the school’s updated mask policy. In an Aug. 31 letter to the district community, families were notified that masks would now be required all day, even when social distancing is capable. Signed by Russell Stewart, interim superintendent, and Mark Secaur, deputy superintendent, the letter stated that mask breaks would be provided and there would be partitions to every student desk.

“We will be monitoring our processes and reviewing feedback and data daily,” Stewart and Secaur wrote. “Additionally, we are convening an advisory committee to look back at regular intervals and make recommendations for transitioning to a full return to school for all students.”