School opening decision still looms: Numbers deciding factor

With Gov. Cuomo’s announcement this week that New York schools could safely reopen as a result of the low rate of COVID-19 coronavirus infection in the state, Island families have moved closer to learning how the Shelter Island School will welcome children in September.

The school district had submitted three plans for reopening to the state Education Department. The scenarios were full in-person schooling, distant learning and a hybrid of the two.

“While we have to wait and see what happens with enrollment,” Superintendent Brian C. Doelger, Ed.D., said, “our goal is to bring back all students full time. We are still trying to juggle things around to make sure that we can do this.”

While the school administrators have been preparing plans for the new school year, they have also been fielding inquiries from parents who may have opted to live full time on the Island, where the COVID-19 infection rate has been minimal, rather than return to the city.

Ten new students have been registered, according to Director of Pupil Personnel, Data and Instruction Jennifer Rylott. She added that “83% of our inquiries/potential enrollments are for our elementary program, with a few inquiries about our secondary school program. Thirty-five families attended our Informational Sessions.”

Mr. Doelger said “By law, parents can register any day that they want — even after school has started. But we have asked parents to please register by Monday, Aug. 17, so we can plan as best as we can.”

The school’s current enrollment is split approximately 44% in the elementary (pre-K-5) and 56% in the secondary program (6-12).

In order to open full in-person instruction, the school will have to maximize the use of spaces inside and outside the building to ensure safe distancing and hygiene protocols. Once the final enrollment is known, the school will know if the plan submitted will safely accommodate the number of children attending.