The Lynbrook Public Schools Board of Education gathered in the Lynbrook High School auditorium for its regular meeting on Nov. 18. The meeting opened with the district’s first virtual art gallery presentation. Lynbrook High School art teacher Michael Kunz presented the exhibit, “Design a Line” through video. The exhibit featured work from Karen Goulet’s fashion class.
During the recognition portion of the meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Melissa Burak commended ENL chairperson Madelyn Torres for going above and beyond for Lynbrook students. Ms. Torres applied and won the Teaching Materials Grant from the New York State Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. The grant provides funding for student classroom learning materials and/or teacher-related materials to enrich students’ language, academic and cultural learning experiences. This will help support the district’s ENL programs. The board also recognized and approved the retirements of two teachers. Physical education and health teacher Dorothy McCarthy and special education teacher Linda Vegh were thanked for their service.
A presentation from the district’s task force was a key point in the evening. The task force highlighted its formal recommendations to the board about phase three and ways in which the district can bring more students back to the school buildings safely for in person learning. Dr. Burak kicked off the presentation by spotlighting the goals of the task force which consisted of assessing the facilities across the district, reviewing the health and safety protocols and evaluating possible changes to the instructional program. The task force sought to prioritize giving current remote families the option to request in-person learning and provide more support for students with various special needs.
Dr. Gerard Beleckas, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment, shared the recommendations with the board. For both the elementary and secondary levels, the task force recommended rearranging desks to maintain a 4.5 feet front-to-back and 5 feet side-to-side distance between students, allowing for more students to learn in-person. At the elementary level, the task force recommended offering all remote learners the option to switch to full in-person learning at their home schools. Depending upon the number of students interested, this may require rearranging teachers and classes and creating and collapsing sections. In addition, the committee recommended limiting morning drop offs to 15 minutes. Among the recommendations for the middle and high school level were prioritizing the return of students with special needs or who are at risk, offering all middle school remote learners the option to switch to the hybrid model, and reducing the existing passing time between classes to eight minutes.
The next steps for the district will be to continue monitoring the pandemic and to continue the conversation about what it would take for all students to return to in-person learning. Desks and barriers have already been ordered for the possibility of more students returning to the buildings. The district will also continue to examine the high school facilities to see if space can be created for more students to return. Families will be asked to fill out a commitment form for each of their children regarding model choices for the rest of the school year. The district will reconvene a task force in December that will tackle phase four and plan for next steps. Plans will be reassessed based on the commitment form results and will be adjusted if necessary. After the presentation, the Board agreed to move forward with the task force’s recommendations.
During the Superintendent’s Report, Dr. Burak provided a COVID-19 update. She has been in constant contact with the Nassau County Department of Health and has been in contact with the New York State Department of Health regarding cases in Lynbrook.
“We are trying to keep our school district open as long as we possibly can but it is a true community effort…the choices we make are going to directly impact whether our schools can stay open or not,” she said.
Dr. Burak encouraged families who are contacted by the Department of Health as part of the contact tracing process to be forthcoming with their information. With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, she stressed the importance of making smart choices so that schools can stay open after Thanksgiving. Dr. Burak also spoke about the possibility of zip codes in the district reaching the yellow zone if an uptick of cases occurs which could result in schools closing. If a zip code or the entire Lynbrook area does reach the yellow zone, the district has the option of testing 20% of students and staff in a two-week period or the schools must shut down.
Following her report, Dr. Beleckas spoke about professional development opportunities for staff. He met with the Lynbrook Teacher Center Policy Board comprised of a dedicated group of teachers. Together, they spoke about professional learning opportunities for staff as it relates to inclusive practices and the celebration of diversity. This is one of the Board’s goals for the 2020-2021 school year. The group explored possible outside partnerships and book titles that teachers can use as focal points to open a dialogue among staff members. The group will reconvene in January to discuss next steps.
Dr. Paul Lynch, assistant superintendent for finance, operations, and information systems, provided the community with a capital projects update. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning projects at Marion Street and West End elementary schools are complete. At Waverly Park Elementary School, the elevator is in the punch list stage and Lynbrook High School’s addition is progressing well. Dr. Lynch reported that he walked the high school site and had the opportunity to stand in the footprint of several rooms. The masons are on site and the walls are being built. The next project for the district is the elevator installation at Marion Street Elementary School. This project will be going out to bid sometime in January or February.