MUFSD Explores Options for How to Reopen

Abby Tucker, News Page Editor

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, reopening schools this fall could pose unique challenges. According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, school districts “should start preparing their plans now, because this is going to be a real exercise.” In a letter to the community, Superintendent of the Mamaroneck School District Dr. Shaps wrote, “The pandemic will likely influence how we teach, learn, and interact in the future, so reimagining school and considering how we return to on-site instruction (social distancing, masks, monitoring the spread of the virus, preparing for a potential hybrid learning environment that includes distance learning, etc.) will be key.” While the thought of continuing any form of modified instruction in September sickens MHS students, the reality of staying safe and social distancing both in the classroom and the overpass means that the school district must prepare for all scenarios.

The Mamaroneck School District will be partnering with Stanford University’s Design School Lab to plan for reopening school this fall. Plans will be formulated for three scenarios: open campus, remote learning, and hybrid learning (a mixture of in-person and online classes). A team consisting of administrators, teachers, parents, and students will work together this summer to create reopening plans for all of the schools in the Mamaroneck district. Beyond the workshops with the Design School, webinars, surveys, and focus groups are being planned to ensure that all who want to participate in the planning process are included.

Ideas for reopening discussed by other school districts provide insight into what MHS may look like in the fall. Increased sanitation measures will be critical to keeping schools safe, and, in order to properly clean school buildings, they will likely have to be closed after school hours as MHS did prior to shutting down. To maintain social distancing protocol, class sizes would have to be reduced to ensure students and teachers can stay six feet apart. This drastic reduction in how many students can be in the building would likely translate to schools adopting staggered schedules, where students only come into school every other day or only in the mornings or afternoons. The D.C. area is discussing a modified, extended academic calendar to account for limits in how often students can be in school. Governor Cuomo also alluded to changes in how New York public schools function. He said at a press conference, “The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom, and teaches that class, and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms–why with all the technology [we] have?” Cuomo has continually emphasized that student safety is the primary concern in designing how MHS reopens.

The coronavirus has additionally put strains on New York’s funds and will likely impact how much aid the school district receives from New York State. According to the Mamaroneck Board of Education, “The Governor indicated that schools should be prepared for potential cuts of 20% in the coming year. This would amount to a loss of $1,530,977 in State aid for our District.” The Mamaroneck Board of Education asks community members to write to federal representative Eliot Engel in the House of Representatives and to New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to urge them “to fight for additional Federal funding in support of K-12 public education in New York State.” On May 5, the school board adopted a “flexible” and “responsive” budget for the 2020-2021 school year, but acknowledged that “to adjust for revenue loss (State Aid, county sales tax, interest income), the District could potentially face difficult decisions around mid-year cuts.” The Board emphasizes that “maintaining the quality of teaching and learning and preserving the classroom experience would continue to be prioritized.” The coronavirus will likely continue to have an impact on the MHS community looking forward to the next school year.