Riverhead will postpone return to full-time, in-person learning

The Riverhead Central School District has postponed plans to return to full-time in-person learning until at least January.

Interim superintendent Christine Tona made the announcement in a letter to families Monday and said the decision was made due to the increase of positive COVID-19 cases in the Riverhead community and statewide in recent weeks.

“I want nothing more than to have our students in school full time, but we cannot take undue risks during this pandemic,” Ms. Tona wrote.

Prior to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Riverhead school district officials had begun taking steps to return K-6 students to school five days a week.

The current reopening plan splits students into cohorts that alternate between days at school and remote learning days at home.

In October, the Board of Education approved a series of resolutions to approve the purchase of plastic classroom barriers that would have allowed more students to return to the classroom.

State guidelines allow students to be spaced less than six feet apart if barriers are used and masks would remain mandatory.

The board approved spending $93,000 on barriers at the K-4 level and another $36,000 to outfit classrooms at Pulaski with the barriers.

Board member Chris Dorr cast dissenting votes on both resolutions, bemoaning the district’s ongoing financial stress and looming cuts to state funding.

The district had been planning to return K-6 students to full time in-person learning as soon as Nov. 30.

Three Riverhead school buildings—Pulaski Street, Phillips Avenue and Roanoke Avenue—are currently closed after positive coronavirus cases were reported among students and staff members.

Those three schools are currently on a fully virtual learning plan and are expected to begin hybrid in-person instruction again beginning Nov. 30.

In addition, a teacher at Riley Avenue Elementary School has tested positive for the virus. Ms. Tona said Monday that individuals who must quarantine have been notified but the building will not shut down.

Ms. Tona also noted in her letter that the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has determined, through their contact tracing program, that the source of positive cases throughout the district has been outside of its schools.

“Please remain vigilant and practice social distancing, wear a mask, avoid large gatherings and wash your hands frequently,” Ms. Tona reminded families.