Port Washington schools unveil initial reopening plans for September

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The Port Washington Board of Education held its final meeting of the 2020-21 school year on Tuesday. (Screencap via YouTube)

Administrators for the Port Washington school district said Tuesday that they expect a full return to in-person classes for all students in September.

Presenting an initial reopening plan before the Board of Trustees, administrators said they  were attempting to return the schools to circumstances that were “as normal as possible.”

The plans were presented by Christopher Shields, an assistant superintendent, and Stephanie Allen, the executive director of pupil personnel services, and were developed by numerous internal committees that included medical personnel, school officials, parents and students, and took in information from last year’s reopening and from the state and Nassau County departments of health.

“Throughout the year, our building protocols committee was working at all three levels, elementary, middle school and high school, and they fed information and questions back to the top committee, and asked us for guidance throughout the entire school year,” Shields said. “So it’s been a very productive structure that we’ve had in place. And I think everyone’s appreciated it and it’s had an ongoing flow of information.”

Allen then briefly ran through the last year’s COVID protocols, noting that “big change” had come in March with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding social distancing and barriers.

Shields then laid out the plan for the fall.

“Our goals open our schools as normal as possible with the expectation to returning to pre-pandemic conditions in as many ways as we can,” Shields said. “In-person learning for all students is at the core of this vision.”

The administrator said that the district expected classroom layouts and libraries to return to pre-pandemic conditions, but said that hand-washing stations placed in schools during the pandemic would stay indefinitely.

He acknowledged that current standards from the state called for students to wear masks indoors and eat lunch six feet apart, but said that the district would update protocols if new protocols were announced.

“We acknowledge that the guidance may change over the next two months,” Shields said. “As we receive further guidance, we will fine-tune our protocols. And finally, the district will continue to communicate with the community over the summer.”

Board of Education Trustee Emily Beys then updated the board on the efforts of the district’s Legislative Task Force, which she said had been seeking government guidance “earlier than later.”

Shields added that the reopening committee still had a way to go in the two months before students returned.

“Our intention is to have as many of our kids physically in school, that is at the core of everything that we’re doing and to make sure that it’s as safe as it can and it should be for our staff and for our students,” Shields said. “So we’ll have more information, I would say, by the middle of summer.”

The Board of Education will hold its annual reorganization meeting on Tuesday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m.

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