Closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Huntington UFSD is in the midst of final preparations for reopening. Classes will begin on Wednesday, September 9 with those students in respective “Wednesday cohorts” reporting to their school buildings and others beginning remotely.
Officials have been working for months on preparing plans and facilities to accommodate students, faculty and staff members for the 2020/21 school year. Safety protocols have been established and many modifications have been put in place.
“All of us in the Huntington School District community and beyond have experienced the previously unthinkable during the past six months,” wrote Superintendent James W. Polansky in a letter sent to staff last Friday night. “New professional and personal challenges seem to surface daily as we continue to navigate the ongoing public health calamity.”
Most Huntington UFSD students have chosen to participate in a hybrid model of education, with a mix of in person classes in school and remote learning at home. Kindergarteners will be attending classes full-time along with students in special class (15:1:1 and 12:1(3:1)) programs. Some parents have elected to place their children in an exclusively remote learning setting at this time.
“I can’t tell you how much pride I continue to take as the leader of our school district, knowing full well that this community is blessed with a group of such talented, committed and caring staff members,” wrote Mr. Polansky in his letter. “What we accomplished last spring, nearly overnight, was unparalleled. Further, the manner in which we assembled a plan for the fall, with safety and flexibility as core guiding principles, is equally as impressive and appreciated among all vested district factions.”
The extracurricular activities program, including clubs and interscholastic sports will be on hold when classes resume. Officials are hopeful that with further guidance from state officials it will be possible to resume after school activities at some point in the fall or winter.
“While we have attempted to address every detail and leave no stone unturned, it is only natural for there to be a degree of reticence and concern as we return under conditions that are markedly different from those in place prior to school building closures,” Mr. Polansky told the faculty. “There is nothing more that I’d like to accomplish than removing every such concern and making every one of you feel wholly comfortable. Under the circumstances, such a goal may be unrealistic. What I can and will do, however, is reassure you that we will maintain every effort toward attaining the goal and continue to proceed both cautiously and responsibly.”
Principals have been working to finalize teacher and student schedules along with other aspects of their respective school programs. District officials are also making final preparations for the bus service that will transport thousands of students to and from school daily.
“I have shared with both parents and staff members the importance of recognizing the collective trauma experienced by students, staff and community members since last spring,” wrote Mr. Polansky in his letter. “We should continue as active listeners and provide a strong support system, as well as remain cognizant of warning signs related to stress and anxiety among children and colleagues. We have an extraordinarily skilled and compassionate student support staff in Huntington that stands ready to assist.”
Mr. Polansky has been holding online Zoom meetings with parents and faculty and staff members over the past few weeks. Administrators have been meeting throughout the summer. The district’s reopening plan and related documents are posted on Huntington UFSD’s website at www.hufsd.edu. A FAQ packet is also available.
“Like any year, the primary contributors to student achievement and growth will be the relationships that Huntington educators develop with their students as routine elements of practice,” wrote Mr. Polansky in his letter. “Children may not internalize every content-related detail, but they will never forget the love and respect you share with them.”
Faculty members will participate in conference days on Thursday and Friday, September 3-4 and Tuesday, September 8 beginning at 8 a.m. each day. All school buildings will follow their traditional schedule when classes resume on September 9.
“While the challenges will linger, I hope you are as confident as I am that we are capable of meeting and defeating them together,” wrote Mr. Polansky in his letter. “I’ve said it before; while the tunnel may be a bit longer than we expected, the light at the end still shines bright and we will emerge stronger as a result of our collective and collaborative efforts and commitment.”