Port district unveils school reopening plans, pushes back first day

Rose Weldon
The Port Washington School District will be delaying its opening to better prepare for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

After a week that included a change in date of the first day of classes and an announcement that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, the Port Washington school district has announced its reopening plan – but it won’t involve elementary students returning full-time.

In a letter issued Aug. 19, Superintendent Michael Hynes announced that the district would resume classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8, rather than Thursday, Sept. 3, with the delay needed to give more time to prepare the staff for COVID-19 protocols. Schools were already scheduled to be closed Monday, Sept. 7, in observance of Labor Day.

“To ensure we have the proper time to orient our District staff to new protocols and procedures, including safety protocols, schedules, roles and responsibilities, assignments, and IT infrastructure, to name a few, we have decided to delay the opening of schools for students to Tuesday, Sept. 8,” Hynes wrote. “This will give us two additional days —Thursday, Sept. 3 and Friday, Sept. 4 — for professional development and building preparation for the return of our students.”

Another letter written by Hynes and sent out Aug. 18 said that on Aug. 16, the district was informed that one of its nonteaching staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

“We immediately contacted the Nassau County Department of Health (NCDOH) to commence the contact tracing protocol,” Hynes wrote. “As required by the protocol, the District also provided the NCDOH with the names of those district staff members this individual may have had contact with. We were informed [Monday, Aug. 17] by the NCDOH that all District personnel contacted tested negative.”

The individual, who was not identified by name or position, will remain under home quarantine for the required two weeks and will be permitted to return to work only after the district receives medical clearance from a physician and documentation of negative testing at the conclusion of the two-week quarantine.

Hynes added that the Health Department indicated it was not necessary for the district to take any further action.

“However, we have promised the community we will be totally transparent about all instances of either a student, teacher or district staff member testing positive for COVID-19 and what the follow-up actions will be,” Hynes wrote. “In line with this commitment, we are informing the community of this situation.”

The superintendent noted that the community was only three weeks away from the start of the new school year, and wrote that he wished the community had been provided “as much joy and personal rejuvenation” as possible “given the unusual circumstances we are all living in today.”

“While ever cautious, we are excited about the opening of school and welcoming your children back into our classrooms,” Hynes wrote.

At a school board meeting on Aug. 20, the district presented its plan for reopening.

Unlike past plans presented to the board, elementary school students will not have an option to attend classes in-person five days a week. Instead, parents of students at Guggenheim Elementary School, Manorhaven Elementary School, John J. Daly Elementary School, John Philip Sousa Elementary School and South Salem Elementary School will have the choice of a hybrid program, with two days of in-person classes a week and three of remote learning, or an entirely remote schedule.  Students in kindergarten and first grade will receive iPads, and students in the second through fifth grade will receive Google Chromebooks to facilitate the remote parts of learning.

The district also said it will be reevaluating the option to allow five-day in-person classes on Oct. 5.

At Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, parents will also have a choice of hybrid or fully virtual instruction. The hybrid model will again involve coming to school two days a week and receiving instruction through Google Classroom and/or livestreaming the remaining three days.

Finally, students at Schreiber High School will also have the option to have either an entirely remote or hybrid learning schedule, and will receive Google Chromebooks that they will be expected to take to school on in-person days.

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