School Year Kicks Off With Protests and Changed Plans

School+Year+Kicks+Off+With+Protests+and+Changed+Plans

Isabelle Kitay and Mia Kurta, Contributing Writers

When schools  shut down on March 12, Port Washington students had to learn to shift quickly from a five-day school week to a virtual learning format consisting of pre-recorded sessions and Google Classroom assignments.  

Now, as we near the start of the school year, there have already been several changes to reopening plans that were introduced earlier in the summer, including delaying the original start date from Sept. 2 to Sept. 8 and leaving many families with empty schedules for even longer than expected.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Hynes stressed several times that the plans were fluid and subject to change at any time.  Specifically, a reassessment of the reopening plans will occur at the end of September.   

The most noted change is that of elementary schools, which have shifted from an original plan of five-day instruction to a hybrid model similar to that of Weber and Schreiber, where classes meet in-person for part of the week.  Dr. Hynes says this decision was made due to a reevaluation of teacher recommendations and health concerns, but the plan has remained highly controversial.  Since the plan was released, a petition on change.org seeking a restoration of the five-day elementary option has garnered over a thousand signatures.  

On August 24, elementary school parents participated in a protest called “5 Hours for 5-Day School Week.”  Parents gathered with their kids, pets, and families to hear other parents, pediatricians, principals, and administrators answer questions.  At the end of the five hours, a petition was posted with the signatures of the attendees on the administration building’s door.  

“Are we just never going to send our children back to school?” wrote a concerned parent, citing the lack of clarity regarding the future of the virus. “We need to get children back in the buildings.”

On July 31, Weber Middle School announced a hybrid plan of three days online and two in person.  They have an “A/B” schedule where on A days, the “A” group consisting of Grade 8, Yellow 6, and Red 6 comes in, and the “B” group consisting of Grade 7, Blue 6, and Green 6 follows a remote schedule.  This schedule flips on B days.  It is much easier for the school to format a pod for Weber since most students have the same schedules as others in their house.  They will stay together in their cohorts without any contact with other groups, wear masks, and follow other social distancing guidelines.  This plan has remained consistent since  August 20.  

Schreiber students will continue to follow the typical A-F schedule.  They will be split up into Blue and White groups by alphabetization, and students whose last names are in the first half of the alphabet  will attend on A, C, and E days while the others will attend on B, D, and F days.  Each class will only have 12-15 students attending in person, and the desks are spaced six feet apart.  

The other days students will be attending class through live streaming, using provided Chromebooks.  However, as of Sept. 3, the shipment of chromebooks is expected by Sept. 16.  

The elementary, middle, and high schools will also offer a fully remote option for students who are not comfortable going back to school.  These students will be livestreaming in accordance with their assigned classes.

“As a senior, it’s a relief to know I’ll get to spend part of my year having a somewhat normal experience,” said senior Emily Berman. “I can be safe without losing my whole senior year.  Plus, it is much harder to understand the material without face-to-face teaching.”

It will be difficult to drop or change classes since there are restrictions on the number of students in each classroom.  This rule is a significant change for Schreiber students.  For example, in past years, students often have been encouraged to take rigorous and challenging classes with the assumption that if they find it too difficult, they could switch out or drop.  However, with this new rule, it becomes much harder for students to challenge themselves.

“I am concerned about this new rule regarding AP classes. I want to challenge myself, but don’t want to risk bringing down my GPA,” said junior Leah Schachter.