In reaction to the manner in which school was physically shutdown in March and more than likely will begin in September with socially distancing protocols in place because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Lawrence School District is looking to implement a grade reconfiguration for the 2020-21 school year.
The plan was approved by the State Education Department and by unanimous vote of Lawrence’s Board of Education on June 29. Schools and the 700 school districts across New York remain in limbo as they await state-mandated guidelines that are expected to be announced on July 13.
Lawrence’s reconfiguration of classes includes having the 2020-21 kindergarten class that were the Pre-K students this past school year to remain in the Early Childhood Center at the Number Four School.
The 2020-21 third grade class that were previously second-graders will be in the Lawrence Primary School instead of going to Lawrence Elementary School at the 195 Broadway Campus and the 2020-21 sixth grade class will remain at the elementary school.
Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said the concept was developed because socially distancing has become “a way of the world” and with the district’s unused classroom space reducing the density between students can be accomplished.
“Covid disrupted the academic year and several components that are important to the well-being of or students,” she said. “This would allow rising students from last year in the lower grades to remain in their buildings and have support staff that they know to support them academically and socially.” Support ranges from classroom teachers to librarians, reading specialists to school nurses and psychologists.
Pedersen also noted that there are many celebratory activities that students who “move up” from one building or grade did not get to experience because of the school shutdown. This past school year’s eighth-graders will move to the high school. She added those students need to transition to high school and have four years “to master their classes.”
Lori Skonberg, president of the Lawrence Teachers Association, said that because of the reconfiguration plans more teachers have been added to the school district’s Health and Safety Committee, but it is still a waiting game until July 13.
“Some districts have come up with a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C,” Skonberg said. “I understand the points of contact. I understand holding on until July 13. She added that most likely the committee will have a virtual meeting after the governor announces the guidelines. Skonberg noted that New Jersey’s plan runs 104 pages.
In a July 6 news briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that every school district was asked to come up with a reopening plan, but that doesn’t mean schools are going to reopen. “No decision yet that we are reopening schools,” he said. “We want kids back in school for a number of reasons. We want it to be safe. We will see the data.”