Riverhead Schools may amend calendar, state exams canceled

Riverhead Central School District officials may amend the school calendar, which has been disrupted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

In a memo posted to the district website Saturday, officials said that Spring Break, originally scheduled for April 6-10, will be moved to March 26-31. 

The measure would require approval from the Board of Education, officials said. If the calendar change is approved, April 6-9 would become school instruction days but buildings would still be closed on April 10 in observance of Good Friday, the memo said.

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Cuomo, all schools statewide will remain closed until April 1.

In a phone interview Saturday, Riverhead Board of Education president Greg Meyer said the board of education may convene Tuesday’s meeting using a video conferencing app, such as Zoom, to approve the measure.

He said the scheduling change is one of the trade-offs under the governor’s executive order mandating schools to temporarily close. Though the 180-day minimum requirement for school districts has been waived, Mr. Meyer said the move will also be made to not disrupt the school year any further.

“We have to swap the time,” he said, since schools are slated to be closed through April 1. “But that could easily change. We don’t really know how long this is going to last.”

Riverhead school district officials noted that prior to school closing on March 13, teachers prepared and distributed two weeks worth of material for students to last through April 1. Officials said they are working on a clear plan forward to ensure continuity. “Families are doing the best they can and understanding,” Mr. Meyer said, also commanding the district’s faculty and staff for “dissecting and implementing” the slew of information being announced daily that impacts districts.

Spring break isn’t the only change that will impact students. State education officials announced Friday that they will suspend all elementary and intermediate level State assessments for the remainder of the school year.

In a press release issued by the state education department, officials said the unprecedented decisions are tied to the school closures happening throughout the region and that the NYSED has applied for federal waivers for testing, accountability and reporting requirements. 

“It is most important that during the time of closure, schools are able to continue to focus their efforts toward local school and community needs, as they have been doing, and not be concerned about state assessments,” the notice, issued by Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and Interim State Education Commissioner Shannon Tahoe, read.

The tests, which were scheduled to take place in April, May and June, include the English language arts and math assessments for grades 3-8, fourth and eighth-grade science exam, English as a Second Language Achievement test for students K-12 and New York State Alternate Assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and high school.

Mr. Meyer said the decision to suspend assessments was something he anticipated. “Everything is going to be cancelled — it’s a trying time,” he said. “But we’ll get through.”

He said their top priority, aside from ensuring education continues online, is feeding hungry students. “Unfortunately, we have kids that come to school that won’t eat otherwise,” he said.

The district has been providing grab-and-go meals daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the elementary schools throughout town in a partnership with Island Harvest.