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Schools Work to Provide for Families Amid Closures

Tue, 03/17/2020 - 16:32
Matt Malone, the principal of the Sag Harbor Elementary School, instituted virtual “morning program” on YouTube with help from his teaching staff.

Update, March 18: All children aged 18 and under, regardless of school district enrollment, are now able to access breakfast and lunch at East Hampton School District main office, 4 Long Lane in East Hampton. The program is not restricted to students on the free and reduced-price lunch program.

Originally, March 17: As all schools in Suffolk County comply with the county executive's mandatory closure order, many parents have begun navigating the world of homeschooling for the first time and school districts have begun serving meals to students who take part in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. 

While most teachers here are still developing formal lesson plans, there are already some resources in place. The Sag Harbor Elementary School on Monday began offering an online version of its popular morning program tradition, in which all students would gather every day in the school gym for songs, presentations, birthday celebrations, and other activities. The first virtual morning program, led by Matt Malone, the school principal, and some of the teachers, started out with the Pledge of Allegiance. "Recess is outside in your yard today," said Ben, a student who did the morning announcements.

The first video had about 1,300 views in one day -- about triple the size of the school's enrollment, according to Jordana Sobey, the Sag Harbor School Board president and a parent of two elementary school students.

"It made several moms and dads tear up. I don't know if [from] joy or not," she said Tuesday morning. "Somewhat joy. Somewhat emotional, I think. Happy to have some normalcy return."

Erica Huberty, whose children attend the Bridgehampton School and Hayground School, said she and her family are also trying to keep on schedule and not allow a learning gap to creep in. Also, she said, phones and other electronic devices have "ironically saved the day."

"It's actually been really helpful to have . . . even though most of us are usually like, 'Get off your phone,' " Ms. Huberty said.

A food program started yesterday for Bridgehampton students as school administrators scrambled to come up with a plan. "Because we didn't have our staff here, we went and got McDonald's breakfast meals and lunches and had them available at the school," Robert Hauser, the superintendent, said on Monday afternoon. "We have to provide for [breakfast and lunch] now even though school is closed to students and staff."

Bridgehampton's formal lunch program starts today, Tuesday, with cafeteria staff making nutritious food and sending it over to the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, where families can pick it up between 8 a.m. and noon each day. Mr. Hauser also said the district is working with its bus company, McCoy, to deliver meals to families who cannot pick up the food themselves.

"It's unbelievable -- a nice partnership," Mr. Hauser said of the relationships with the bus company and also with the church, where many staff, school board members, and students are regular congregants.

In the East Hampton School District, food service starts tomorrow, Wednesday, on a grab-and-go system at the district office at East Hampton High School. Student ID cards or card numbers must be presented at the time of pickup. Wednesday there will only be lunch, while both breakfast and lunch will be available starting Thursday. Meals for families with a last name beginning with A through M can be picked up between 9 and 10 a.m.; meals for families whose last name begins with N through Z can be picked up between 10 and 11 a.m.

"Cars will enter the bus loop from Long Lane (signs will be posted) and proceed to the front of the administration entrance, where a curbside distribution station will be set up," Robert Tymann, the assistant superintendent, said in an announcement. "We will try our best to get the meals to students as efficiently as possible."

The Sag Harbor School District is also making arrangements for free breakfast and lunch to the impacted students.

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