Earlier this month, Patchogue-Medford superintendent of schools Dr. Donna Jones hosted a Zoom meeting with socially distanced cabinet members to discuss their potential plans for reopening and results from the parent-requested survey. Over 16,000 people have since viewed the hour-long meeting, which provided much-anticipated information to the mostly unknown plans to resume classes come September.
School districts across the state have been requested to submit potential reopening plans to the state this month. Patchogue-Medford’s plans, Jones said, were made with the survey questions answered by over 2,000 parents, representing about 3,700 students, in mind.
Also, committees with subcommittees were formed to handle the reopening, including secondary education, social, emotional support, special services, operational and transportation at all levels.
However, parents expressed that the survey felt skewed because of limited areas for written responses and no choices to reopen fully, being that this option is not currently feasible.
“The goal is, if we are allowed to, to reopen fully while doing everything to keep our community healthy and safe,” said Jones. “[However], the CDC and Deptartment of Health hasn’t afforded us that as an option.”
As for the previous year’s unplanned for distanced learning, 41 percent of parents were extremely unsatisfied while 58 percent were either neutral, satisfied or extremely satisfied, with parents citing that it was frustrating, but also offered the benefit of flexibility regarding what time of day learning could take place. One thing needed was better support for distance learning and more live instruction with teacher-created videos to help engagement.
Another discovery, Jones said, was the level of hardships endured by families during the pandemic, including depression and mental health struggles, suggesting the need for increased social-emotional support.
The current thought process for returning to school in the fall is a hybrid model of in-person instruction on an A-day, B-day schedule with one day for virtual live instruction.
At the elementary level, Dr. Joey Cohen, assistant superintendent for human resources, explained, that there would likely be two different start and dismissal times spread 45 minutes apart for K-2 and 3-5 to make way for temperature checks upon arrival, as well as to spread out the number of children in the halls. The school would run on an A-day, B-day schedule with some students attending Monday/Thursday and others attending Tuesday/Friday, with live virtual instruction on Wednesday. ELA and math learning would take place in person with larger time blocks, while social studies and specials would be done from home. Lunch would likely be some sort of grab-and-go model done in the classroom and combined with a special for a longer break.
As for secondary education, Lori Cannetti, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction explained that they would also use the A-day, B-day split schedule, but with ELA, math, social studies and world languages in person and electives remote. Lunch would also be grab-and-go. Resource room learning would also be offered on-site on a rotating basis.
The high school, she said, is a bit trickier, with more kids and class options. The thought, she said, is to run a six-period day on an A-day, B-day split-schedule or possibly an a.m.-p.m. option. Grab-and-go lunch would also be offered and elective courses would be distanced while math, English, social studies, science and world language would be done in person.
According to the survey, about 59 percent of parents were for an A-day, B-day plan as a possible option; 66 percent reported that they would be able to find child care if that were to happen, though some sort of child care option will be provided; and just over 43 percent reported they would still use transportation. However, about 49 percent were comfortable returning to school while 20 percent were not, and 31 percent were undecided, suggesting a mix of emotions, overall.
Frank Mazzie, business administra- tor, said there would be temperature checks and classrooms dedicated to potentially ill students to be picked up. Classrooms would be distanced, with students at half capacity. The dis- trict would also work to cluster certain rooms within students’ schedules to limit times in the hallways. Classroom sizes will range from 12 to 15 students. Cleaning and sanitizing would take place daily.
Universal pre-K is currently still being offered and available for registration. However, according to Jones, class sizes will have to be reduced, most likely reducing the number of children they are able to serve. BOCES has yet to release information on their continuation of programs; however, the in-house CTE programs will be running with possible classroom relocation.
According to the district, children are not required to wear masks, though it is recommended, and they will be socially distanced. However, district nurses are currently creating a protocol following NYS guidelines that will be shared district-wide when available, Jones said.
The data from the survey is available for review via the district website. Further details regarding the plan will be released as they become available.