The Manhasset Secondary School students returned to school on Monday, March 1, after a COVID-19 outbreak of 54 students testing positive between Feb. 12 to 21 that led to full remote learning for a week. The students will be returning to their original model of hybrid-learning, but many parents and students would like this to change and see a full in-person teaching model for the students.
At a school board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25, Superintendent Vincent Butera spoke about the recent outbreak and the plan ahead.
“It has been almost a year since we transitioned into this environment,” Butera said. “I certainly hope with numbers coming down and vaccines going up that the day where we can return to full normal, whatever normal means, is really close. That’s not to say that we have not and will not continue to encounter challenges.”
While other school districts in Nassau County have made the move from a hybrid model to full in-person learning, Manhasset’s two outbreaks in January and February have not let that be possible. During the school board meeting, frustrations from students poured out as they looked for answers.
“This whole year for us has been borderline depressing,” Manhasset senior Jonathan Malary said. “We sit in front of our computer every other day and it’s terrible, some people every single day since day one. You guys keep saying you’re working on it, but I really want to know who is making the yes or no decision. The questions people are asking you’re having really long explanations to them and we’re getting pretty confused on what you’re saying. Who do we really talk to [in order to] get things done?”
“I admire you for pushing us,” school board trustee Regina Rule said in response to Malary. “As a board and an administrative team, we’re not in full control of the conversation. We would love to be able to dictate that we want kids in the building. Garden City was not declared a micro-cluster.”
Manhasset has also not been declared a micro-cluster, according to New York State data.
Other seniors, like Malary, came forward to speak about losing all of what they hoped their senior year to be.
“We’re getting these vague answers, like a customer service call about how we should reach out,” Senior Class President Eunice Choi said. “We’re attempting, but it just seems that nothing is exactly being done. I just keep on getting the general answer that discussions are occurring, but I don’t know exactly where Manhasset seniors are being included in this loop.”
The school board appreciated the student’s candor, but did not provide any coherent plan or dates that the students were looking for.
“Over the coming week, I look forward to meetings with a number of different stakeholders to start to discuss how do we return more and more of our students to our campus and to do it safely,” Butera said at the public school board meeting with stakeholders present.
“I like everyone else can’t wait for the day where we all get back to normal. Obviously, it’s paramount on all of our minds,” school board trustee Carlo Prinzo said. “But I must say I’m tempered by yesterday’s health report that we sent out from the school. That kind of thing always frightens me and it tempers my thought process and I know that it’s something that the faculty is very sensitive to. I don’t know if I’m ready to throw out the six feet.
Bringing students back full-time would throw out a lot of the safety measures that the school district implemented and budgeted for. The school district is also still reporting Covid-19 positive cases, 20 from Feb. 22 to 26, making the situation even more difficult for the school board to provide any sort of timeline.
“It’s all about students and it’s all about getting students back in the building,” Rule said. “Unfortunately, we had a breakout recently and that’s scary for everybody. It’s nature’s way of saying to us, we got to stay distant for a reason. Like Carlo, I’m not sure I want to give up the six feet.”
More than 30 Manhasset parents came together on Saturday, Feb. 27, in front of the Manhasset Secondary School to implore the school board to come up with a plan to get their kids back in school. Some parents did not want to be identified because they have children in the school district.
“[The students] spoke up at the Board of Education meeting, they want to be heard,” a Manhasset mother said. “This is to support our school and it’s time for Manhasset to make brave decisions and lead.”
For some parents, a realization of the power that the school board came to light. The last two school board elections went uncontested and the incumbent stayed in place.
“I think the board needs to be replaced,” another Manhasset mom said of the school board. “There are too many of them that don’t have children in the school anymore.”
But for the people most hurt and passionate about getting back to school, they just want to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
“Do we have any hope?” Malary said to the school board through a video camera he stares at two to three times a week.