The Upcoming School Year

The Upcoming School Year

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

The coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has caused much devastation and loss throughout the world, but how will this pandemic affect Lynbrook’s 2020-2021 school year? Lynbrook’s last day of in-person schooling took place on Friday, Mar. 13. That weekend, the community was informed that Lynbrook schools, much like many other schools throughout the country, would be closing for two weeks to take precautions due to the virus. Unfortunately, since then, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the closing of New York schools would be permanent for the rest of the school year.

Since students have not been in school, learning has been taking place online. The Board of Education has been discussing the plans for the school year of 2020-2021. A large part of the plan from next year stems from the instructions of Governor Cuomo and the state. According to Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak, “The CDC recommendations are also an important component of our decision making as far as basing our decision in the facts that we are provided by the health authorities…Also, we have to take into consideration the opinions, beliefs, and feelings of our staff, students, and families…As a local school district, we have to make sure we really meet the needs of our local families and make sure they are comfortable returning to school in some normal staff to make sure we have the staffing available to teach our students, and the training for everyone so that we can have a return to an instructional plan.”

A large factor in when school will be able to take place in the high school rather than online is when the vaccine is finalized and distributed to the students. According to Dr. Burak, the district’s focus is to ensure “that people feel comfortable and safe and reenter the school and we can bring all students and staff back in a safe environment with a sense of normalcy.” If a vaccine is not found by the start of the school year, there is a likely chance of continuing with complete remote learning with a more prepared for plan. Another possible scenario would be a portion of the district doing remote learning, while other students attend school while socially distancing. For remote learning, all students would follow a normal schedule to normalize the year as much as possible.

During an online Board of Education meeting, a PowerPoint was distributed regarding the district’s reopening plan for the school year of 2020-21. Assuming that school may still be partially online, the district plans to “reimage and install” specific software to grades 6-12 in order to make remote learning as sophisticated and accessible as possible, according to the District Reopening Plan. Certain programs will also allow for remote teaching of classes such as technology, art, and science. If a class requires materials outside of the digital world, the district will provide those materials. Examples of this would be art classes and family and consumer science.

The Reopening Plan also addresses how access to the Free and Reduced Lunch and Milk programs will take place. According to Assistant Superintendent for Finance Dr. Paul Lynch, “…[The] District charges $27 per device for insurance to every family who has a student take home a tablet…Recognizing that a $600 tablet is very different reality than a $30 textbook, the District launched a program whereby the parent can buy insurance from an insurance company that will replace the device should it become lost or stolen…However, there are some families who cannot afford the $27 insurance. Therefore, if the child is enrolled in the free lunch or the free milk program, there have been generous benefactors who have paid that fee for these children… Now that the take-home program is going to expand K-12, there are many more children to consider (over 400).” Dr. Lynch will be presenting his ideas to the Board of Education regarding a solution to supplying funds to acquire insurance for the families who cannot afford it.

Regarding the special education programs, features on the devices will cater to the needs of every individual. Teachers and parents will be informed on how to access certain tools through the tablets. According to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Dr. Gerard Beleckas, examples of this are features that read aloud to students and change the language. Programs with special components teach students how to access these specific factors that serve their needs.

The district plans to have a system that allows for teachers to supervise to confirm the students are completing their assignments. Like this year, online classes will be over a video chat program along with handouts. Additionally, the reopening plan mentions the possibility of having administration observe the virtual lessons occasionally. The staff will be trained on how to use the new Learning Management System (LMS). The staff will be educated to improve their skills when it comes to using distance learning tools.

A large aspect of any school year is the extracurricular clubs and events. The Reopening Plan states that the clubs will be maintained and adapted. The district will find larger meeting spaces for the clubs to follow social distancing. Depending on the event, they may need to be recorded or live streamed. In the case of a group performance, regardless of size, supportive technology will be accessible. Like the meetings of clubs, rehearsals for performance events will be held in spaces where social distancing is possible.

Unfortunately for the graduating Class of 2020, their senior year was unlike any other before. Because the school year had to be finished online, the seniors did not experience many of the events they looked forward to in their final year of high school. Since the verdict of what will happen next year is still undecided, the Class of 2021 may not experience certain aspects of their senior year as well. Addressing the idea of how her senior year may be impacted, junior Maeve Mooney said, “I am very very upset. Ever since freshman year, myself along with my classmates have been looking forward to all the senior activities. My hope for next year is that everything goes back to normal, but realistically, my hope is that we can at least get back in the building. Whether it is rotating every other day or having a shortened week, it is better than nothing. I also hope to still have the activities that make LHS the amazing place it is, one being Class Night.” Many hope that a vaccine will be created before the 2020-21 school year starts in order for everyone to have the safest and best possible year.