Manhasset weighs barring parents’ school visits during lunch hour

Teri West
A conversation about the proposed visitor policy at Friday morning’s Manhasset School Community Association meeting leaned toward one of curiosities about how the system would actually play out rather than opposition. (Photo by Teri West)

About once a month, Caryn Cortegiano heads over to Manhasset Secondary School at midday to drop off something her son forgot at home.

“Which is something I’m trying to put an end to, honestly, because when I was a kid if you forgot something, you just forgot it,” she said. “It was part of the times.”

Though Cortegiano only does so on a monthly basis, many Manhasset parents have made midday drop-offs, often with food, a part of their weekly or daily routine, which in turn creates an overload of in-and-out traffic throughout the day. The district’s administration wants to put an end to that.

Administrators and the Board of Education have drafted a new visitors policy that would eliminate food drop-offs and designate specific time periods in which other materials, such as sports equipment, could be dropped off at a centralized location. It would also require parents to pre-arrange meetings with teachers.

“During the lunch periods at the secondary school last month when we did the count there were over 120, I believe, drop-offs [per day] of lunches and coffees and whatever else,” Superintendent Vincent Butera said at an April Board of Education meeting.

The proposed policy change comes in tandem with conversations between the school district and Nassau County Police Department about ways to reinforce safety on its campuses given the frequency of shootings at schools around the country, said Superintendent Vincent Butera.

Reducing the number of visitors on the campus was one of the Police Department’s primary recommendations, he said.

Other efforts that the district is undertaking include purchasing new security vestibules and placing an emphasis on students’ social-emotional health as preventative safety measures.

A conversation about the policy at last Friday morning’s Manhasset School Community Association meeting focused on concerns about how the system would actually play out rather than opposition.

One parent asked what she needed to do to drop off a form.

Send a digital copy and we’ll print it, Manhasset Secondary School Principal Dean Schlanger replied.

What if it’s not a routine drop-off but a one-off emergency like a calculator breaking another wondered.

“For a case like that I’d say go to the math lab, we’ll give you a calculator,” Schlanger said. “We had a girl who forgot a calculator yesterday, and she had a panic. I said I’ll get you one in about five minutes.”

If the school allowed an exception in its visitor policy for every such situation, they would add up, Butera suggested.

A mom dropping off lunch for her daughter around noon on a Friday said she does so about three days a week.

Now that her sons have graduated and are away she is less busy, and making her daughter lunch is something she enjoys, she said. She has heard about the proposed policy change, though, and is not against it.

“With the things going on in the world, I think it probably is a good thing,” she said.

Perhaps limited drop-offs would also enhance student independence, some present at the School Community Association meeting suggested.

“Everyone thinks they’re entitled to everything, so I think it’s actually good to limit all this stuff,” Cortegiano said.

Though the policy would limit visitors’ traffic, juniors and seniors would still be allowed to walk off campus during lunch.

The policy change will continue to be discussed and revised before a vote in coming months, Butera said. There will be another community meeting on the topic May 30.

An earlier version of this story said anyone besides parents would be required to pre-arrange meetings under the new visitor policy. Parents would be included in those required to make such arrangements in advance.

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