Lakeland School District officials have responded to an outcry from parents to return students to the classroom by unveiling a plan that would implement in-person learning four days a week in early April.
During a lengthy meeting Thursday night in the Lakeland High School auditorium, Superintendent of Schools Brendan Lyons, who earlier in the day penned a letter to the community outlining his proposal, said a survey would be circulated from March 1-8 asking parents if they preferred having students back in school or continue remote learning until the end of the school year.
“This is where we need our community to be active partners,” Lyons said. “I believe the best place for students to learn is in our classrooms. But we are most responsible for the health and safety of our students and staff.”
Approximately 540 parents signed a petition that was sent to Lyons and the Board of Education and more than 600 people joined a Facebook page calling for schools to open.
“It’s not working. These kids need to go to school,” Marianne Kolesar, a parent of three students in the district who is also a teacher, remarked at Thursday’s marathon meeting. “It’s heartbreaking.”
For the four-day-a-week, in-person option to be possible (Wednesdays would be used as a flex day), Lyons maintained the district seeks to meet two metrics. Using the seven-day rolling average for Westchester County, the coronavirus positivity rate must remain below 5%. In addition, the district is targeting 70% or more of its faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated.
He said a recent survey of staff, which generated 718 responses, 58% stated they had already received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine or had scheduled an appointment.
“When our district physician, Dr. Louis Corsaro, certifies that the metrics have been met,
all students could attend school four days a week,” Lyons stated in his letter. “The district will reconfigure classrooms to provide three feet of space between desks and each desk will have a three-sided plastic barrier, a protocol permitted by the New York State Department of Health. In addition, every pre-K-12 classroom will have an air purifier.”
Corsaro, who has been the district’s physician for the last eight years and also represents 13 other districts, not being in school takes an emotional toll on students.
“It’s time to make decisions on what’s best educationally for our schools,” he said. “I think Lakeland is in an excellent position to consider this move.”
Trustee Robert Mayes said he would like students to be in schools five days a week.
“I don’t think the plan goes far enough. The students will perform better if they’re in the classroom,” he said to much audience applause. “I think schools should be the last thing to close and the first thing to open.”
Board President Michael Daly agreed, saying, “I think we need to move full speed ahead towards reopening.”
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