Patchogue-Medford School District gears up for the first day of school

PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD, New York (WABC) -- Parents, teachers, and educators across the country have been trying to wrap their heads around how the first day back to school will look like.

Schools have been shut down since March when the coronavirus approached its peak in New York. Many students were hopeful that this would be temporary, but as proms were canceled and graduations postponed, remote learning became the new normal.

With a new school year quickly approaching on Long Island, educators across the county have been debating how to get their students back into the classroom - while keeping their distance and continuing to flatten the curve of the coronavirus.

"We are living in a new age, education has to be reimagined," said Dr. Donna Jones, Patchogue-Medford School District Superintendent. "We have to be creative and that's scary. That's scary for parents, that's scary for educators, that's scary for us all, but we don't have the choice. We are living in a whole new world, we need to reimagine for the time that we are in and we need to be creative and flexible, educators are working across the clock."

Dr. Jones has spent the summer having virtual discussions with teachers and other administrators in the district to discuss how they are going to reopen the school.

After crafting several plans, hosting multiple Facebook-live meetings, and encouraging parents to participate, she is positive that the new school year is going to be a success.

An example of this plan can be seen while walking around Eagle Elementary School in Medford.

As every student walks through the building, the first thing they will have to do is get their temperature checked. As students enter the school, they will see halls filled with rows of rainbow-colored circles - encouraging students to separate from each other when they walk from room to room.

In every classroom, desks are separated 6-feet apart and have markers on the floor to indicate where each student should have their desk.

To show parents a better picture of what exactly this school year is going to look like, teachers and administrators from Patchogue-Medford School District volunteered to participate in an array of training videos, showing how students will get on and off the bus, how they will enter the school, in what way they can enter the classroom, and even how students can participate in gym class while maintaining social distance.

"One of the things that we knew is that parents would be very anxious we knew they had a lot of questions," said Dr. Jones. "A picture is worth a thousand words so we figured what better way than to really demonstrate what it is going to be about, to show them what it can be like and that we're okay. It's okay to send your children to school we got this, we care about them and we're going this extra measure just to show them we have this."

The plan for all Patchogue-Medford schools is that each class will be taught on a modified schedule - where the class will be separated into two cohorts.

Half the classroom will be in cohort one with their teacher in person two days a week. The rest of the class will get their other online support services on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with a combination of live instruction and other remote services that may be recorded.

The cohorts will then switch each week, but Dr. Jones empathized that this hybrid plan can be modified for any student who needs extra time with the teacher or has issues working from home.

"Catching the kids when they are wearing the mask saying I love that you're wearing your mask great job," said Eagle Elementary Principal, Erin Skahill. "Taking that positive approach is really important. Kids have been traumatized and it's important that when they come back to school this is a safe haven for them and so we need to keep that in mind, it's just a matter of teaching them and being patient."

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