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A new kind of school year in Franklin Square and Elmont


Students in Elmont and Franklin Square faced a new kind of school year last week, when they had to wear masks, fill out health surveys and log onto their computers and iPads to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Franklin Square pupils were the first to resume in-person and online classes on Sept. 8, with parents of students in kindergarten through sixth-grade opting to either send their child to school every day or participate in a “virtual academy.” Pre-schoolers, however, were assigned to two groups, and are attending school in person twice a week. When they are not in school, their teachers are giving them activities to complete, and one day a week, they are learning virtually. Parents were also able to send their children to the virtual day only, Superintendent Jared Bloom announced in August.

Now, he said, “We’ve had a great opening,” and “our staff was excited to be welcoming students back.” The children, meanwhile, have been resilient, he said, and were able to adjust to the new routine quickly, as teachers try to figure out new ways to engage their students.

“You see it in their eyes,” he said of the students, “they’re smiling.”

Christian Khan even smiled when he returned home from his first day of fourth-grade, his mother, Aleisha, said, and told her how everyone followed the rules. Lyndsey DeSarbo also said she was happy that her son, Damian Hogg, was able to see his friends again, and Chistina Mastroserio said her daughter, AvaMarie, was excited for her first day of kindergarten. She thanked the Franklin Square School District for making the transition “a little more calming for students and parents.”

The district provided students with masks and lanyards, according to Nicole Martinez, and made sure that all the desks were placed six-feet apart. “As a nurse, I feel very confident that my children will be safe,” she said. “It’s very sad that school is different for us, but the kids’ experience has been great so far, and I am very happy to be a part of the Franklin Square School District during these times.”

Not everyone was pleased with the changes, however. Gabrielle Mariano, whose daughter, Eva is participating in the fully-remote program, said her daughter’s first-grade class has been combined with a second-grade class, and as a result, Eva only sees her teacher one and a half hours a day. Making the situation worse, she said, are the technological problems she has to help Eva with.

“Eva’s first day, I had to go to school personally, and ring the front door bell, and ask the assistant principal to come out and show me what to do,” Mariano recounted. “The instructions were sent at all different times, and were very unclear.”

Bloom said the district is still trying to work through some of the technological issues, and will continue to improve on its online program.

The Elmont School District

Students in the Elmont Union Free School District, meanwhile, began their new year on Sept. 10.

Those in kindergarten through third-grade who have opted to attend school in person, are doing so on Mondays through Wednesdays, and students in fourth through sixth-grade are attending class in person on Thursdays and Fridays. Each class is also divided into two cohorts, with classroom teachers and special area teachers alternating between the two groups. On days the students are not in school, students are learning remotely.

Any parent who did not want to send their child to school, however, was able to opt their child into a fully virtual learning program that mirrors the work being done in school, and preschool students and those in self-contained special education classes have the opportuity to attend school in-person every day.

Darren Whaley said that the decision to allow his daughter, Kennedy, to return to school at Dutch Broadway was “nerve-wracking and excruciating,” but conceded that he and Kennedy’s mom, Briyonna, believe they made the right decision “and have faith that the Dutch Broadway School staff have taken, and will take all reasonable measures to keep Kennedy and all the kids at Dutch safe.”

When he brought her to school on her first day of classes, he said the process was “orderly [and] the kids and accompanying parents were spaced out and socially distanced.”

Sewanhaka Central High School District

High school students also began their school year on Sept. 10, and are learning in person one day, and virtually the next. Anyone enrolled in the Life Skills or special education program, including the English Language Learners Program, however, can attend school in person every day, and any parent who did not feel comfortable sending their children to school could opt for a full remote learning program.

That is what Elmont seventh-grade Samantha Sciammarella decided to do, saying that she thought her first day of middle school went well. “Through the wonderful efforts of Elmont’s educators and staff, she not only felt welcomed and positive about how this year will go,” her mother, Kelly, said, “but they also helped make remote learning simple, easy and fun.”