Schools close as COVID cases spike

Recently, schools across the country have been closing due to a surge in cases of COVID-19.  This is devastating for thousands of students, families, and educators.  However,  state and individual school districts are making decisions about the precautions  necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible.

New York is seeing a rapid increase in the number of cases. Over the summer, our new daily cases hovered at a little under a thousand.  However, on Nov. 27, we hit a new high since April, with 8,179 cases.

 As of Thursday, Nov. 19, New York City’s mayor Bill De Blasio announced that all New York City school buildings would be temporarily closed for teaching and learning, and each public school needed to jump to a full remote-learning schedule.  This was a decision that impacted over a million public school students, not to mention their families. 

However, as the mayor observed the continuous rise in cases despite this measure, he changed course and announced on Sunday, Nov. 29 that he would start allowing the youngest students and those with special needs (District 75) to return to their classrooms. 

“The need levels for District 75 and for younger kids — the need is even more intense to be there in school.  We know that the health realities for the youngest kids are the most favorable,” said De Blasio in a Washington Post article on Nov. 29.

Under this new plan, preschoolers and students in kindergarten up to fifth grade will return to classrooms on Dec. 7, special education students will return on Dec. 10, and students above 5th grade will remain fully remote. 

“I feel terrible for the families who cannot afford childcare, but I understand that the mayor had to take the necessary safety precautions,” said junior Leah Schachter.  

Other cities and states are having similar debates and making decisions about whether they can allow their districts to remain open.  For example, the entire state of Kentucky has ordered full school closures due to their rising infections.  However, as closings have occured and cases have continued to rise, it is evident that with proper social distancing procedures, schools may actually be much safer than other places being kept open.  

“It’s literally safer for a child and a teacher to be in the school than in the community,” said New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo in a teleconference on Nov. 29.

So, where does that leave Schreiber?

Before Thanksgiving break, the possibility of Schreiber closing loomed.  Many rumors were circulating, but the main one was that Port Washington’s Board of Education was considering turning our district from hybrid to fully remote from Thanksgiving until after Christmas break.  This was a scary thought to many families, after having had such a difficult spring filled with too much time at home. 

“I would be completely devastated if we went fully remote for that long, since school is a safe and enjoyable place for me right now,” said sophomore Gaby Sorin. 

The Board of Ed decided at their meeting this past week that the district will remain open until it is absolutely necessary for the schools to close.  The Board understands that school is extremely important to the mental health of students, and there are multiple safety measures taken, including mask wearing and separated desks.  

“Now is not the time for us to take unnecessary risks as the virus spreads.  Together we need to maintain social distancing, wearing our masks, and washing our hands frequently,” said Principal Dr. Ira Pernick in the Thanksgiving safety reminder he posted to Instagram on Nov. 25.