South Country Central School District is moving forward with expanding the reopening of schools. This week, on Monday, Nov. 16, the district entered Phase 3, a weeklong transition period to ensure a successful transition to fully remote teaching and learning.
“The remote teachers and classroom teachers will be working collaboratively. Remote-learning students will continue to follow their current classroom’s live schedule for the week of Nov. 16,” reads a Nov. 13 letter to parents/guardians from superintendent Joseph Giani. “Lastly, we will also begin a soft rollout of afterschool activities at Bellport Middle School in this phase.”
Phase 4 will begin next Monday, Nov. 23; pre-K students will return in-person for five days a week. Additionally, first and fourth graders will be brought back four days a week in the classroom
“In-person learning will take place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week, and students will remain on remote learning on Wednesday of each week. Students will be distanced less than six feet apart from one another, using barriers/desk shields at student desks/workspaces when inside six feet,” the letter reads.
Also, students in grades 6-12 who receive special education services, ENL services and students in the PASS program at the high school and middle school levels will receive four days of in-classroom learning. Each relevant building principal will be providing more information.
On Dec. 7, grades 2, 3, 5, 6, and 12 will all return for four days of in-classroom learning. In the virtual-learning environment, several parents expressed concerns to the district that their younger-aged children are not getting the proper educational and social experiences necessary for proper development, especially considering the prolonged duration outside of the classroom.
“We support the decision to put the kids back in school,” said Joseph Merckling, a parent of four, with a 7-year-old being his oldest. “So many other districts are doing this.”
Merckling pointed out that more time outside of school for young children will not work for many families in the district. Additionally, Merckling said his children would rather be in school.
“The kids don't want to do the computer,” he said. “They say, ‘I hate my computer work. I want to go to school.’ To sit and listen to that is really difficult.”
Other parents with young children, in addition to Merckling, spoke similarly about the concerns regarding students of younger ages, specifically. Board of Education president Anne Hayes and other trustees discussed reopening at an emergency meeting on Nov. 5. Hayes provided The Advance with a statement.
“The board is aware of the stressors affecting everyone in our community and the board received comment from all stakeholders, parents, teachers, administrators, community members and others concerning expanded reopening of our schools,” Hayes said. “The board took these comments into consideration, along with the recommendation of the superintendent, when making its decision with regard to the phased-in reopening plan.”
Merckling and other parents have been planning a rally outside the Central District Building on Dunton Avenue. Merckling relayed that since reopening seems to be making headway and no longer stagnating, the plan for the rally has transformed into one of good faith for Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m., prior to the board’s scheduled meeting.
“We support their decision, [and] we want them to stick by that decision,” Merckling said.
Grades 8 through 11 in the district are not scheduled to return to in-class learning until Phases 6 and 7, which occur on Dec. 21 and Jan. 11, respectively.