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State's masking announcement creates confusion in school districts

State's masking announcement creates confusion in school
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This week’s top stories

1. Federal funds to address learning loss

State school officials released a sweeping proposal this week for recovering academic learning lost during the COVID-19 pandemic — an effort to be supported by more than a half-billion dollars in federal stimulus money for Long Island’s schools alone.

The 83-page state plan, which requires Washington’s approval, lists three main priorities to be pursued starting this summer. These include addressing lost instructional time and closing academic performance gaps; providing emotional support for students; and using “evidence-based” interventions such as tutoring to deal with those in greatest need of support.

In drafting their educational blueprint, state authorities said they drew on online comments of nearly 5,000 parents, teachers and others statewide, including 600 in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said the use of federal stimulus money “will help us address gaps that were exacerbated by the pandemic, focusing on the students that were most impacted.”

Read the full story.

2. Masks remain indoors in schools

New York students will not be required to wear masks outdoors on school grounds, but they will still have to wear them indoors, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

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  • The announcement for K-12 schools followed a weekend of confusion among parents, students and school districts after Cuomo’s administration said Friday it would lift the indoor mask requirement on Monday, pending review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Cuomo said state officials spoke to the CDC through Monday morning, and the federal agency was “comfortable with the outside mask requirement” being lifted, but “they were not comfortable with the inside mask requirement” being dropped.

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3. Parents, educators worry students are falling behind

Long Island educators and parents worry that students have fallen so far behind in their studies that they won’t be ready when the new school year starts in September.

  • Educators say they must be careful to bring students up to grade level, but not overburden them with work that could discourage them from learning.
  • Long Island’s 124 school districts will handle the issue in their own way, including restructuring summer school, hiring extra teachers, expanding opportunities for extra help and planning student-by-student assessments, when school starts in September.

Read the full story.

4. Solar site in Smithtown schools

The Smithtown Central School District has constructed what state officials said was the largest single solar site for a school district on Long Island.

  • The $6.4 million carport array shades about 3 acres of a Smithtown High School West parking lot. Its 5,422 solar modules generate 2.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year — enough to supply nearly a third of the district’s electric needs.
  • It caps a yearslong, $23 million energy overhaul of district buildings that school officials said would cut outside electric demand by 90%, saving about $1 million a year in energy costs.

Read the full story.

5. Lessons from the farm

A popular Huntington farm and market has opened a school to teach students the importance of sustainability, organic farming and healthy eating habits.

  • Kerber’s Farm School launched its first set of classes last week, with students young and old getting hands-on experience with the farm’s vegetable gardens and assorted livestock, including hens, ducks, pigs, goats and more than a dozen beehives.
  • A 32-seat classroom also doubles as a cooking studio where students are taught how to prepare healthy meals while learning about the carbon footprint of their food choices.

Read the full story.

Resources for you

  • Want to learn to rock this summer? Newsday highlights how one local music camp for future rockers is thriving.
  • The state Board of Regents shared a presentation on how libraries played a critical role during the pandemic.
  • It’s SUNY application week — the state university system offers free help for students who want to apply.

Round of applause

Janice Syers teared up when she saw her children’s drawings of a nurse on a billboard.

They were part of a display of 10 billboards showing 1,026 patches of artwork schoolchildren made to honor front-line workers.

Syers’ twin children, David Jr. and Rebecca, 11, drew a female nurse wearing blue scrubs. One was decorated with pink hearts, and both included a handwritten “Thank You.” The siblings are fifth-graders at St. Aidan Catholic School in Williston Park.

The billboards Syers saw at Michel J. Tully Park in New Hyde Park were installed by North Hempstead Town, which collected digitally submitted artwork by students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Visitors can view the installations at Tully, North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington and Martin “Bunky” Reid Park in New Cassel until July 23.

Your questions answered

Have questions? Send them to [email protected]. Newsday’s education reporting team will pick one to answer in this space each week.

What efforts are local leaders making to boost vaccinations among campers this summer?

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced this week that county officials are offering incentives such as free ice cream and ballgame tickets to camp counselors, staff and children ages 12 and up to get them vaccinated this week ahead of the start of summer camps.

County officials will dedicate a vaccine pod for those groups at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge on Monday evening, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the first 100 children to get doses of the Pfizer vaccine will receive a free ice cream cone from Mister Softee, Bellone said.

The county also will offer walk-in vaccines at Patchogue-Medford library, the Suffolk County Community College Selden campus and Pronto of Long Island, a community outreach center in Bay Shore, Bellone said.

Bellone also said county officials will work with camps to offer vaccinations on-site.

Kids who get vaccinated during the #CampVax initiative this week could receive tickets to a Long Island Ducks game in Central Islip, the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, Adventureland amusement park in Farmingdale and Splish Splash water park in Calverton, Bellone said.

— Find the latest education news at Joie Tyrrell can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoieTyrrell.

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