School Closures Extended To April 15


Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today he has extended school closures through April 15.

The news follows his original two-week cessation to in-school learning that was scheduled to come to an end April 1.

“I believe the schools should remain closed,” Cuomo said during a March 27 briefing. “I don’t do this joyfully, but I think when you look at where we are and you look at the number of cases still increasing, it only makes sense to keep the schools closed. They have to continue the programs they’re doing. They have to continue the child care, continue the meals, continue the distance-learning programs. I’ll continue the waiver on what’s called the 180-day mandate that they have to be in operation, but we’re going to close the schools for another two weeks, and then we’ll reassess at that point.”

The news comes as COVID-19 cases rise to 44,635 statewide, 3385 of those cases in Suffolk County. Twenty-two of the 519 New York deaths have also been reported in Suffolk.

“We still see the trajectory going up,” Cuomo said. “We want to do everything we can to be ready for that increased capacity that could hit us in 21 days.”

The governor had said previously the peak number of those affected by the virus could be seen in 14 to 21 days.

Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone addresses students during a March 27 remote morning program.

“In terms of where we are today, because we’re tracking the numbers, we want to see what’s happening and are we getting closer to the apex? Are we succeeding in flattening the curve?” Cuomo said. “We’re testing more in this state than any other state in the United States. We test more per capita than China or South Korea, so we’ve ramped up very quickly on the testing.”

The Sag Harbor Union Free School District, Westhampton Beach Union Free School District, and Riverhead Central School District are among many that have kept up remote morning programs each day of the school week, conducting the Pledge of Allegiance, a singing of the National Anthem, weather updates, birthday announcements, and more.

“I know, for me, it has been challenging adjusting to not having everyone around the school,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone said March 27. “It’s definitely lonely without you, and your teachers and I all miss you very much, and I know you miss us and miss being at school and being with all of your friends, but it has been great to see some of your pictures and some of the videos you’ve been sending in. I can tell that everybody has been adjusting the best they can to our new situation. Most importantly, I’m hoping everyone is healthy and safe and taking care of one another. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Sag Harbor School District Interim Superintendent Jeff Nichols said in a letter to community members, cosigned with Malone and Pierson Middle School Principal Brittany Carriero, that the district has been notified that more than one member of the school community has tested positive for COVID-19. As of March 25, the district had not yet received official notification from the Department of Health confirming the test results.

“Protecting the health and safety of our school community remains our primary concern, and therefore we wanted to inform you at this time,” the letter reads. “We realize this news may be unsettling and that many of you will want more information; however, we want to be respectful of our community members’ privacy and must adhere to privacy laws. The Sag Harbor school community remains committed to working together during this difficult time.”

Westhampton Beach School District Superintendent Michael Radday said the district is closely monitoring the “fluid” situation of the novel coronavirus.

“The district will continue to take steps in accordance with the latest guidance to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” he said in a letter to residents. “There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among any students or staff members affiliated with our schools. There are also no students or staff members under mandatory quarantine at this time. The Suffolk County Health Department will notify the district immediately if that changes.”

Staff members of Riley Avenue Elementary School connected with students this week by posting a giant message they had created that read, “We miss you, see you soon,” along with colorful rainbows in the school’s windows. Independent/Courtesy Riverhead Central School District

Westhampton Beach Elementary School Principal Lisa Slover said back on March 13 students were sent home with work assignments and devices like iPads and laptops for at-home learning.

Aquebogue Elementary School created a Facebook page that offers educational challenges students can complete at home. “The feedback from families has been tremendous so far,” said Principal Bryan Miltenberg, who films the YouTube morning announcements. “We will continue to look for ways to reach out and support our families and community going forward.”

Hampton Bays Union Free School District Superintendent Lars Clemensen said in a letter to residents there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the Hampton Bays community.

“Thank you for your continued support of the Hampton Bays Public Schools,” Clemensen said. “The challenges related to COVID-19 have consumed the attention of us all. As new information is available related to our school operations, it will be shared with you.”

An announcement was made by the district on Twitter about the extended closure.

“The Hampton Bays school district learning plan for this time will be released today,” the district said. “We will continue to support families during this unprecedented time.”

Bridgehampton School District has an enhanced distance learning website up with assignments available per grade. As part of East Hampton School District’s emergency closing plan, it continues its distribution of breakfast and lunch to anyone 18 years of age and younger. Meals are being handed out at the high school using a grab-and-go process. Cars will enter the bus loop from Long Lane, according to an announcement posted on the district’s website. Signs will be posted to proceed to the front of the administration entrance, where a curbside distribution station will be set up. Residents will not need to leave their cars.

“Thank you for your understanding and patience,” the district said in its statement. “We will try our best to get the meals to everyone as efficiently as possible.”

Southampton Union Free School District Superintendent Nicholas Dyno said in a March 27 message remote learning will continue through April 3, and spring break will occur from April 6 through 13, with no remote lessons during that time.

“Lessons will resume on Tuesday, April 14 as we await any further directions from the state,” Dyno said. “In a few days, we will provide you with instructions and a schedule for our meal preparation and pickup through April 15. Additionally, our buildings will be undergoing another deep cleaning this weekend.”

Westhampton Beach Elementary School students address classmates during a morning session. Independent/Courtesy Westhampton Beach Union Free School District

“Whether our school closing lasts for two more weeks or two more months, do not worry — we will do our best to get your kids caught up. It is our job, it’s what we are trained to do. Don’t worry if you are not the perfect homeschooling parent, don’t worry if you are torn between working at home and helping your kids,” he continued. “Don’t let your kids spend nine hours a day doing schoolwork online — cut them off, and let the teacher know it was too much. Don’t let these days be joyless for your kids. … Together, we will come through this, and we will look at the world differently.  Be kind to yourself and wrap your kids in love.”

Cuomo said to date 138,376 New Yorkers have been tested, with 16,272 new tests being done from March 26 to 27.

“It continues to spread all across the state as it continues to spread all across the country,” the governor said of the novel coronavirus.

The state Education Department already suspended all state assessments for third through eighth-graders for the remainder of the school year as of March 20.

A news release issued that Friday by Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Interim Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe said the state applied for federal waivers for testing, accountability, and reporting requirements.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing for this school year.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said free emergency child care is available to those working for essential businesses, called the Suffolk County Child Care Consortium. Run by SCOPE Education Services, the program is currently being offered to those who have children residing in 12 Suffolk County school districts, among others statewide. No East End school districts are currently included.

“We’re looking to be in the thick of this thing by April 15 based on the data,” Bellone said. “I see the closure being extended beyond April 15.”

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