Coronavirus Update: How Long Island's largest school district is coping with the coronavirus

Kristin Thorne Image
Friday, March 20, 2020

BRENTWOOD, Suffolk County (WABC) -- Eyewitness News visited the largest school district on Long Island to see how it's feeding and teaching its students during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Brentwood School District has more than 20,000 students and is New York State's largest suburban school district. Approximately 85% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch and the district distributes approximately 21,000 meals every day.

In the wake of school closures due to the coronavirus, school staff has been distributing thousands of meals every day to students across 10 district sites.

"Cheese sticks, yogurt, all our perishables we are getting rid of first," said Carol Ann Grodski, District Food Services Coordinator.

Students are being given breakfast and lunch daily. More than 6,000 meals were distributed Tuesday.

Grodski said she is trying to get prepared for the long term.

"I was in contact with our vendors over the weekend and asked for shelf-stable type of foods, thaw and serve type foods," Grodski said.

Island Harvest has teamed up with the district to distribute meals to the parents of students as well. Volunteers are giving out boxes that contain all three daily meals.

"We're trying to help supplement the rest of the family to provide the meals that they need also," said Allison Puglia, Island Harvest volunteer.

Teachers in the Brentwood School District, like in all other school districts, are engaging in remote instruction with students. However, since a vast majority of families in the Brentwood School District are considered low-income, the superintendent, Richard Loeschner, said the school is making arrangements with families who do not have access to a computer.

"We're going to allow a centralized location where moms and dads and the student can swing by and pick up the material. We'll run off copies at a centralized location, give that to them and they can bring it home," he said.

Parent Timothy Trent said he picked up the packets for his children Tuesday. His daughter, 4th grader Hannah Trent, said remote learning is going to take some getting used to.

"Because when I do homework at my house, I don't feel, like, that education, because I don't even know what I'm doing," she said.

Loeschner said, on a whole, most students have access to a computer and are doing their work over the internet.

Eyewitness News reporter Kristin Thorne spoke with some Brentwood High School teachers Wednesday as they went to retrieve items from their classrooms.

Many of them said they are still adjusting to the remote teaching model and only time will tell the effectiveness of this type of learning environment.

"This is an ongoing process. We really hope every single day that teachers are communicating with their students and vice versa," Loeschner said.


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