When school districts across Suffolk County reopened in September, many announced they’d be operating under a hybrid model of learning to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The hybrid model combines face-toface instruction with online learning. This model reduces the number of students in a building at one time by rotating some students to virtual learning.
But some officials feel that online learning is not sufficient for their children and could impact developmental skills. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said remote learning was a poor substitute compared to in-person learning in a classroom. During a press conference Feb. 19, Cuomo urged school districts across the state to get students back to in-person classes five days a week, and said the vaccination of teachers, who are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, is crucial.
With the county’s coronavirus positivity rate lingering below 3 percent, many parents are wondering: will my child return to the classroom full-time this season?
The Suffolk County News took a closer look at how each district is operating and what the future holds for learning.
SAYVILLE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT
At a Feb. 23 district reopening roundtable, superintendent John Stimmel said the district “wants to achieve the benefits of in-person learning while providing the key support services necessary for our students.”
Since September, Stimmel said, the district has been working to keep schools open and safe. “We didn’t want to have situations that occurred in January, where we were forced to close, or earlier in the school year when we were forced to quarantine whole classes.”
Now, Stimmel said he believes the district is at a turning point to shift toward in-person instruction in all schools, to all students.
If positive cases remain low in the district, students in grades 6 and 12 only could return to in-person learning as early as March 15. Other cohorts would return after spring break—definitely before the end of the academic year, Stimmel said.
The district recently conducted a district-wide survey from teachers, staff and parents which indicated that the majority of all of these groups were comfortable with children returning to in-person instruction and would like to see students back in the classrooms.
According to state data, a total 176 students, teachers and staff have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the academic year. The majority of those cases were on-site students at Sayville High School.
Stimmel said there were 24 positive cases in the district in February alone, or a positivity rate under one percent.
To further mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Stimmel said it’s possible that the district may become a vaccination distribution center for staff and, eventually, the community.
CONNETQUOT CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
The Connetquot district designed its reopening plans “to strictly follow the reopening guidance provided by the CDC and DOHS while supporting our students’ educational, social and emotional needs,” a statement from district offcials read.
Students in grades K-12 can attend school following a fully remote plan or an in-person offering.
For in-person, K-5 students attend school full-time, five days a week, while students in grades 6-12 follow a blended hybrid schedule, which has them attending school in-person every other day. On remote days, they follow their school schedule and live-stream their classes.
The state monitors COVID-19 cases in Islip Town and across the state through the COVID-19 Report Card. The online tracker, launched last year, displays the cumulative number of cases since each district began the 2020-2021 academic year.
In the district, approximately 428 students, teachers and staff on and off site have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year. Of those, 286 were students, according to state data.
“Connetquot CSD continues to remain fully committed to ensuring the health and safety of our schools, students and staff,” the district statement read. “We continue to review and reassess our reopening plan as well as engage our community in conversations about possible ways to safely enhance our practices.
BAYPORT-BLUE POINT UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT
The district maintains a fully virtual and blended in-person model for all students, based on family preference, a statement for the district said.
For in-person attendees, all K–6 students are attending school full-time, five days a week.
Grades 7-12 are following a hybrid schedule and, as of Monday, Feb. 22, students were granted the option to learn at the district’s virtual learning centers, located at the middle and high school, on the days they are scheduled to be learning remotely.
District reps stated that “these plans were designed to adhere to the reopening guidance provided to all schools prior to the start of the year, including the need to maintain 6 feet of distance between students in class.”
Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year, approximately 161 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus. The majority of those cases were on-site students, according to state data.
“The district continues to maintain stringent health and safety measures in all of our buildings to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard our students and staff,” a statement from the district said. “We remain in regular contact with our families regarding our reopening plans and continue to assess our instructional practices to identify opportunities to enhance our plan to benefit our students.”