Courtesy photo: Riverhead Central School District

It was back to school for 5,531 Riverhead Central School District students this week.

Classes resumed on Thursday in the district, which has deployed a “hybrid” model, featuring both remote and in-person instruction.

Interim School Superintendent Christine Tona said the first days back went smoothly overall. There have been many changes as schools adapt to reopen during a pandemic, but one thing remained the same on the first day of school, she said: the excitement of students to be back in school, meet their new teachers and reunite with friends.

Returning students were instructed in new health and safety protocols, which include mandatory face coverings, social distancing and hand hygiene.

The district is also offering the option of all-virtual instruction. So far, 912 students — 16% of the student population district-wide — are enrolled for virtual-only instruction. One-third of the virtual students are high school students.

Fifty-six more students from the Riverhead Central School Districts enrolled in parochial and private schools since the close of the last school year, Tona said.

The interim superintendent said overall the return to school, though complicated, was successful.

“The biggest challenge has been meeting each student’s individual needs as they return to school,” Tona said. “I want every student, parent, and staff member to feel safe and comfortable within the school environment and thus we are approaching each concern on an individual basis,” she said.

Courtesy photo: Riverhead Central School District

The district conducted a survey to assess and address families’ needs and preferences as it prepared its re-opening plan. Tona said 2,580 families completed the survey.

In the weeks before reopening, Tona and other officials also held Zoom informational meetings for each school building and two district-wide general information meetings, to provide building-specific information and allow families a chance to ask questions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Aug. 7 that Long Island schools could reopen in September. He had required each school district to submit its reopening plan to the State Education Department for approval by the end of July. The reopening plans had to comply with guidelines and rules published by the state health and education departments.

The governor closed schools for two weeks on March 18, as the coronavirus outbreak hit New York, in an attempt to slow community spread of the virus. The governor extended the closure twice before announcing on May 1 that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year. Educators were left scrambling to develop and implement remote-learning plans on the fly.

How has your child’s back-to-school experience been so far? Let us know.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.