Northport High School Students Weigh in on District’s Transition Plan


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, February 5, the Northport-East Northport UFSD announced plans to return students to full time, in-person learning.

James Connor, Contributor

On Friday, February 5, the Northport-East Northport UFSD announced plans to return students to full time, in-person learning. This plan, outlined at the February 4 Board of Education meeting, comes at a time when Suffolk County is reporting an average increase of nearly 1,000 cases per day.

In its presentation, the Board referred to a survey of 1200 Northport-East Northport parents in which approximately 75% of respondents indicated their preferred instructional model to be one of full in-person instruction. A Port Press survey of 89 Northport High School students paints a slightly different picture. According to the recent poll, only 41.6% of responding students are in support of the full in-person model, revealing a notable difference between parent and student views on the best model for education. The same survey found that another 44.9% of respondents support the current hybrid model and 13.5% favor a fully remote education.

In their responses to the Port Press survey, many attributed their decision to several key considerations. One recurring argument was the well documented fact that students simply learn better in a traditional educational model. Others in the survey acknowledged this point, but said that this ‘normal’ in-person model is not safe — at least not for now. “I don’t know if I would feel safe with more students crowding the hallways and classrooms,” says Alessandra Soletti, a student at Northport High School. “I remember how crowded the hallways used to get before the pandemic and the arrows and security guards won’t do much to change that.”

In contrast, a number of respondents said that they favor in-person instruction for social reasons — an idea that reflects the District’s recent focus on social-emotional learning (SEL). Others claim that the return to traditional learning will create fear and confusion among students, and will ultimately impact their education in a negative way.

The results of this survey come as the District prepares for a transition period following the February break. The entirety of the District will attend classes virtually on Monday, February 22, and Tuesday, February 23. On Wednesday, February 24, grades six, seven, nine, and twelve will attend classes in-person; on Thursday, February 25, the remaining grades will join them. By the week of March 15, the District expects to have completely transitioned to a traditional five day, in-person schedule.

The Northport-East Northport UFSD’s proposed transition schedule. (James Connor)

The transition plan is accompanied by an average rate of three cases per day over the past week, with seven cases reported on Wednesday alone. These cases bring the District’s total to 235 positive cases for the 2020–2021 school year.

While the opinions contained in the responses to the Port Press survey do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Northport High School student population, they could suggest a divide between administrative decisions and the sentiments of students. Unless the Board of Education and the Northport-East Northport UFSD administration are convinced to reverse course, however, this division is unlikely to prevent a return to in-person education or assuage the rising fears among students.