Riverhead School District unveils hybrid reopening plan

Riverhead students will split their time between face-to-face instruction at school and remote learning when classes resume in September, according to a reopening plan published by the district Friday.

The lengthy document outlines the hybrid model, as well as fully-remote learning plan that will go into effect if schools are not permitted to reopen come September.

In a letter to families, interim superintendent Christine Tona said the hybrid model is “our most viable option at this time,” due to student enrollment and space availability.

“In order to follow social distancing requirements, the Riverhead Central School District regrets that we are not able to have students attend in-person school every day,” Ms. Tona wrote.

Under the plan, students at all levels would be split into cohorts.

Students in grades K-6 would be grouped into two cohorts that attend school on an AA-BB pattern. Students in the first cohort, for example, would attend full days of school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the second cohort would be in classes on Thursdays and Fridays. All K-6 students would participate in remote learning on Wednesdays in addition to days they are not in class.

The first day of school for Cohort I at the elementary level is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Sept. 3 and resume Tuesday, Sept. 8 after the Labor Day holiday.

Cohort II would begin Friday, Sept. 4 and continue Thursday, Sept. 10.

Remote learning would take place through platforms including Seesaw and Google Classroom, according to the reopening document.

Because enrollment is much larger at the 7-12 level, students would be split into three cohorts that operate on a six-day cycle.

Cohort A would attend two consecutive days at school starting Thursday, Sept. 3 and Friday, Sept. 4, then participate in remote learning from Sept. 8 through 11 and return for in-person learning Sept. 14 and 15.

Cohort B would begin in-person sessions on Sept. 8 and 9, learn remotely from Sept. 10 to 15 and return Sept. 16 and 17 for in-person classes.

Students in Cohort C would start Thursday, Sept. 10 and Friday, Sept. 11, participate in class remotely from Sept. 14 to 17 and return to school Sept. 18 and 21, and so on.

See also: SWR plans to reopen Briarcliff School

While in school, students would follow a regular eight-period schedule. At home, work would be assigned through platforms like Google Classroom. Officials noted that remote learning days will be an “extension of in-person learning” and may include independent activities that are not reliant on the use of technology.

In the spring, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York, schools had to quickly pivot to distance learning and address inequities in student access to computers and the internet. District officials said last spring, more than 2,300 devices were distributed to families who did not have access to technology — an initiative that will continue into this school year.

In accordance with guidelines set forth by the State Departments of Health and Education, Riverhead’s plan also addresses special education, student meals, social-emotional health and cleanliness of buildings.

Additionally, Riverhead’s school buses would undergo more frequent cleanings and require a mask and health screening to ride. Buses would not be equipped with hand sanitizer “due to its combustible composition and potential liability to the carrier or district,” the plan said.

‘Mask breaks’ would be built into the school day for students attending in-person sessions each day.

District officials said students living in the same household will be placed in the same cohorts whenever possible. Plans will also be put in place for students in grades K-12 who do not feel comfortable attending in-person instruction, officials said.

Before finalizing the plan, officials are now awaiting word from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on whether schools will be permitted to reopen for in-person learning in September. A survey will also be sent to families in August to collect more detailed information on their plans.

Riverhead’s reopening task force has been working throughout the summer on the plans, which will now be submitted to the state for review. Ms. Tona noted that the plans are “fluid” and are subject to regular reviews and updates.

Initial guidance from the governor’s administration indicates that schools must be in Phase 4 to reopen and must shut down immediately if the regional infection rate, based on a 7-day average, rises to over 9%. If the governor doesn’t issue the go-ahead, schools must revert to a totally virtual model.

The governor is expected to announce more details about school reopening next week. In addition, a virtual Riverhead Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 4. No agenda has been published online, but the meeting will be streamed on YouTube.

“We recognize that remote learning is less than ideal,” Ms. Tona wrote to families. “We wish nothing more than to have all of our students in school every day, as we know that this is the best way to meet our students’ academic, physical, and social-emotional needs. However, due to the pandemic, we must follow the guidelines established by these agencies. During these challenging times, the health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority.”