Education

Mattituck-Cutchogue prioritizing mental health and wellness with COVID relief funds

The Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District has been granted nearly $500,000 in combined allocations from the federal government to address educational gaps caused by the pandemic.  

The district plans to prioritize a K-12 mental health and wellness program, in addition to targeting learning loss and performance gaps, offering supplemental programs and bolstering its technology infrastructure.

“You really do have to use this plan, that you’re not putting the district in a position that this becomes a recurring expense,” instructional support administrator Ilana Finnegan said at a board of education meeting last Thursday. She emphasized that the funds are meant for short term relief. 

“It’s really about addressing lost instructional time,” she explained, adding that the funds are geared more towards schools that were remote the past year. “We actually are a little bit ahead of the game … in that regard.” 

The district has proposed a two-year run for its expanded mental health and wellness program. Ms. Finnegan said a team has already started meeting to come up with “a comprehensive plan of how to address all the nuances of the mental health and wellness needs of the district.” The funds will pay for staff to work on the program over the summer, increased hours for social workers and behavior specialists, and outside experts and consultants if needed. 

Ms. Finnegan also said the district intends to focus on academic interventions to close learning gaps that arose during the pandemic. The district has proposed setting aside money for after-school enrichment and academic support, in addition to a full-day, four-week summer program.  

One school official said a program has been launched for this summer, but he’s “disappointed in the enrollment.” Ms. Finnegan acknowledged that transportation might be an issue. 

The district has also proposed spending funds on updated classroom technology, such as smart boards, and purchasing extra Chromebook chargers to keep for “students that have a disadvantage.” Funds have been allocated to upgrading technology infrastructure, including the firewall and backup servers, in school buildings. The district is additionally looking at adding wireless access points to provide internet on sports fields at the high school. 

The spending draft is open for public comment through July 1, when the district must post a finalized spending plan on the website.

MASKS REQUIRED INDOORS

District officials said they were going to “stay the course” on indoor mask mandates, following recent confusion over the state mask mandate in schools last week. 

After implications from the state Department of Health last weekend that mask mandates in schools would be dropped, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told schools that masks were still required indoors — although they’re now voluntary outdoors. 

“We did have a conversation as a board about sending letters to the state and some of our local politicians expressing our feelings on some of these topics going forward, and to make a statement, but for now we’re going to comply with the regulations,” newly appointed Superintendent Shawn Petretti said. 

He acknowledged questions about mask-wearing as temperatures rise, saying the board plans to reach out for guidance from the Department of Health. “But the good news is, it looks like it’s going to be in the 70s for the next 10 days so we’re not going to get any extreme temperatures,” he added. 

The district is waiting for new state guidelines over the summer about reopening in September. Officials expect there will be “very little or no COVID-related requirements.”

ROOF REPLACEMENT PLANNED

The district plans to eventually replace the roof of Cutchogue East Elementary School due to widespread but minor leakage. 

Delays in obtaining materials means construction will have to wait for next summer. There is no risk in the meantime.