Schools scramble to provide food, childcare, online learning following shut-down

School districts on the North Shore shifted to distance learning last week in response to state-mandated school shut-downs due to the coronavirus outbreak and began offering grab-and-go meals to students.

All public and private kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in New York State will be closed until April 1 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday, March 16.

“The single most effective way to slow the spread of this virus is to reduce close contacts, and that includes in our schools,” Cuomo said. “Every district will be required to submit a plan to ensure children of healthcare workers and first responders have access to child care so these closures do not strain our hospitals and that children who depend on school meal programs continue getting the support they need.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran had previously announced the shut-down of schools in Nassau County beginning on Monday, March 16, and lasting at least through Friday, March 27, in a press conference on Saturday.

“I understand the gravity of this action and what it means for every community in our county, as well as for the families and caretakers of our students, especially health care workers with kids in school,” Curran said. However, she added, closing schools “is the right thing to do to protect our students, teachers, school workers, and family members, parents and grandparents.”

School buildings will be closed to students, but teachers and staff are permitted to utilize buildings for distance learning and meal distribution.

Cuomo temporarily waived the 180-day instructional requirement for public schools.

REMOTE LEARNING

All schools have implemented distance learning, which will continue until school buildings reopen.

Remote learning began in Roslyn, Great Neck and North Shore schools on Wednesday, March 18.

“Rather than putting a focus on grading, we are more interested in meaningful engagement and feedback with students,” said North Shore Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo on Wednesday in a letter to families. “Active engagement is key, and we will continue to work through the mechanics of our record-keeping and grading as we move forward.”

On Tuesday, March 17, following a Zoom conference with Nassau County superintendents and Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, Superintendent Elaine Kanas announced that the East Williston schools’ remote learning program would begin on Thursday and run through April 1. If the state orders schools to remain closed past April 1, remote learning will continue past that date.

A spokesperson for East Williston schools confirmed in an email to Blank Slate Media on Friday that the district’s remote learning program began yesterday, and “so far so good.” She elaborated that teachers are using several platforms, including Google Classroom, Google Hangout, Flipgrid, Smore, and YouTube to interact with students.

Manhasset faculty were asked to begin contacting students and their families beginning on Thursday to provide information including the platform they will use for online learning, how students should go about asking questions and when and how assignments will become available to students.

Manhasset’s continuity of learning program will extend through Friday, March 27, Superintendent Vincent Butera said in a letter to Manhasset families.

Port Washington and Herricks began implementing online learning on Thursday as well.

Students in Long Island’s Catholic Elementary Schools are in their second week of distance learning. Gary Layton, director of marketing and enrollment, wrote in an email update on Monday that the transition has gone very smoothly.

GRAB-AND-GO MEALS

Closing schools hinders not only learning but also food access for some students.

Curran acknowledged that the first consequence of the shut-down that comes to mind for many families is nutrition.

“A lot of our kids are dependent on school breakfast and lunch, so we are working with our school districts to make sure all students who qualify for reduced or free meals continue to receive them through a grab-and-go program,” she stated.

Grab-and-go school meal services began in Great Neck Public Schools on Wednesday. Students or family members may pick up bagged lunches from the kitchen entrances of North Middle School and South High School Monday through Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Options include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, and cereal. Meals also come with fruit, vegetables, milk, and juice.

Free lunches are available for pickup for Floral Park-Bellerose students at the Poppy Place side lunch door at Floral Park-Bellerose Elementary School between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. All students eligible for the free and reduced meal program can participate.

Students in need of transportation or dietary accommodation should contact the school lunch office at (516) 434–2758, or email Karen Crenshaw at kcrenshaw@fpbsd.org.

Roslyn Public Schools have prepared meals available for families eligible for free and reduced breakfast and lunch. Family members can pick up the meals, or request delivery.

The Herricks School District began providing lunches to free and reduced-price lunch eligible students on Wednesday at the loading dock at Herricks High School between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. They are offering two lunch options: sun butter and jelly sandwiches and cheese sandwiches.

Westbury’s prepared breakfasts and lunches are available to all students for pickup Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at both Park Avenue Elementary School and Westbury Middle School until schools reopen.

Families whose children are enrolled in Port Washington’s food programs can pick up meals from three locations, Monday through Friday. Staff will give out both breakfast and lunch between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. in the Paul D. Schreiber High School lobby, the John J. Daly Elementary School teacher’s parking lot and a school bus in the Our Lady of Fatima parking lot.

East Williston is offering free grab-and-go meals, which include lunch as well as breakfast for the next day, to all students. The meals are available for pickup between 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. on weekdays at the south side bus loop at the Wheatley School.

North Shore schools are providing eligible students with breakfast and lunch delivered directly to their homes. Families in need of food should reach out to Director of Counseling Dan Doherty, who can be reached at dohertyd@northshoreschools.org.

Grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches are free to all students in the Mineola School District, in addition to any household member who is under 18. Residents can pick up their meals between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on weekdays at Mineola High School.

Social workers in the Manhasset Public Schools have reached out to families eligible for free or reduced-price meals to coordinate meal assistance.

CHILDCARE

SCOPE Education Services is offering free care for children of first responders, medical personnel and essential services personnel in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The emergency care program in Nassau County was developed in collaboration with the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents and Nassau BOCES.

“SCOPE is pleased to be able to provide this much-needed service to those who are serving on the front lines during this health crisis,” said SCOPE Executive Director and CEO George Duffy. “Knowing their children are being cared for in a safe and welcoming environment provides the peace of mind needed while they are working.”

Childcare programs at all locations began on Monday, with some offering care services the previous week as well. SCOPE programs are being held at Babylon Elementary School, Sawmill Intermediate School, John F. Kennedy Intermediate School, Bowling Green Elementary School, Stewart School (available for first responders or medical personnel only) and Lakeville Elementary School (available for first responders or medical personnel only). SCOPE childcare is available Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., at all locations.

Children ages 4–12 in grades pre-K–sixth are eligible.

Families must register through the SCOPE website in order to participate in the program. Those residing in the school districts where the programs are held are given priority, although families outside of these districts are eligible for childcare as well. Additional locations may be added in the future.

OTHER INFORMATION

The State Education Department has suspended the ELA test and mathematics test for grades 3–8, the grade 4 elementary-level science test, the grade 8 intermediate-level science test, the ESL achievement test for grades K–12 and the NYS alternate assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities in grades 3–12 for the 2019–2020 academic year.

The town of North Hempstead officials has requested a school tax payment extension from the state. On Tuesday, March 17, Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Receiver of Taxes Charles Berman and the Town Board sent a letter to Cuomo requesting that he extend the deadline for the second half of 2019–2020 school taxes, which is currently May 11.

“We are asking the Governor to extend the deadline to June 1, 2020, which is the latest date allowable for paying taxes without interest or penalty,” said Bosworth. “In light of the effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic on our region, we believe it would put our residents at ease knowing that they have this extra time.”

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