For the second time, the Board of Education trustees and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani met virtually during the April 1 workshop meeting. During his opening statement, Dr. Giani announced that it was National Census Day and noted the importance of responding to the U.S. Census, which affects each community’s distribution of federal funds, grants and support to schools. Dr. Giani also expressed sincere thanks and appreciation to faculty and staff who have volunteered their services in the District’s meal distribution program, as well as those who have gone above and beyond their role and responsibilities during this unprecedented time.

Dr. Giani also gave the Board trustees a Coronavirus Pandemic update, focusing on the District’s Continuity of Learning Plan, the Grab-and-Go meal program and childcare for health care professionals and first responders. He noted that the Continuity of Learning plan is fully operational and that it can be accessed by clicking onto the “Continuity of Learning” link on the District website. While the plan was initially designed to keep students engaged and connected to teachers, remote learning will start to be more structured. On April 13, the Remote Learning Plan will give guidelines for students, so parents know how much time students should spend working on academic material. The new structure will also outline expectations for teacher availability to students. Students will continue their remote learning through the District website and/or Google Classroom, depending on their grade level. Teachers will guide and provide assignments through the website and/or Google Classroom. Students can also explore learning resources on their own. 

The District has also discussed plans to handle quarterly grades during the closure and are currently exploring using work up to March 13 for grading, which includes six weeks of work out of the 10-week quarter. In this model, students would be given the opportunity to make up any missing work to help their overall grades. A pass/fail option is not on the table. The District is also looking at models on gauging how students are doing academically under the remote learning program. Elementary school grades are not an issue at this time, because the elementary trimester grades were posted March 6.

The District continues to provide meals through the Grab-and-Go distribution program with curbside pickup at Bellport High School, Frank P. Long Intermediate School and Verne W. Critz Elementary School between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. For families in self quarantine or without transportation, call 631-730-1501 or email grab.n.go@southcountry.org to arrange delivery. Meals will be available through the originally scheduled spring recess from April 6-10.

At this time, the District will not host in-District childcare, although this solution has been explored. The District currently suggests Way to Grow Childcare in East Patchogue, who has space available, with priority for essential emergency response workers. The District hopes to enter into partnership with SCOPE Educational Services, which would provide childcare for no-cost for emergency responders and health care providers.   

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order requiring school districts to first use any vacation or snow days to be eligible for a waiver of the 180-day instructional requirement has put the District in a difficult position with contractual obligations. The Order requires districts to first use vacation and snow days to be eligible for a waiver of the 180-day instructional requirement. As a result, remote learning, Grab-and-Go Meals and childcare availability must continue through the extended closure and must include spring recess (April 6-10), and possibly the Memorial Day holiday (May 22 and 26). Therefore, the trustees unanimously approved a resolution which follows the Governor’s Executive Order requiring the District to cancel spring recess and modify essential staff schedules so as not to be in conflict with the contractual agreement. 

Dr. Giani gave an update on the budget process. He told the community that all activities related to the Budget Vote/Election are postponed until after June 1, 2020. He noted that the New York State “runs” which detail state aid to school districts will most likely be reduced, due to revenue losses from the pandemic. Furthermore, school districts are still waiting for guidance in terms of voting procedures. 

The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for April 15 at 7:30 p.m.