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Warwick schools to use Pine Island Elementary as part of district reopening plan

on August 14, 2020
New flooring gets installed

Maintenance worker Charles Vealey installs new flooring in a classroom at Pine Island Elementary School on July 22, 2020. Vealey is a member of the WVCSD Reopening Task Force.

New walls. New floors. New paint. New furniture. New technology. The Warwick Valley Central School District is busy this summer, converting the Pine Island Elementary School building back into a school. It will have 16 classrooms, where kindergarten students will learn and be active in large classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of its Reopening Plan, the building will operate as a fully functioning school where kindergartners will attend classes daily starting in September. Opening the school allows the school district to have enough capacity for socially distanced, full-time, in-person instruction for kindergarten at Pine Island, as well as first-grade and second-grade at Park Avenue and Sanfordville elementary schools. The building was last used as a school in 2011.

“Pine Island Elementary is a tremendous resource to the school district and I am very proud of our team of administrators, educators and staff who are quickly turning this building back into a school where our kindergartners will be happy and healthy,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach.

“The classrooms will be large and provide extensive space for social distancing,” Dr. Leach said. “It was very important to the district and the Reopening Task Force to implement full in-person learning for our youngest students and we are accomplishing that by establishing a new, clean, school environment at Pine Island.”

This year, students will be socially distanced at least 6 feet apart in 16 spacious classrooms that will each hold approximately 10 students.

“We’re excited to have Pine Island Elementary back open,” said Greg DeBuck, a member of the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. The chamber has supported the school district in its reopening of the elementary school during the pandemic. “The community is looking forward to having the school open and will support it in any way it can.” DeBuck’s daughter, Audrey, 5, will be attending the school next month.

The building also has a cafeteria and a small gym, both of which can be repurposed as learning spaces. Although classes have not been held at Pine Island for some time, the building has been in regular use over the past 10 years. Other area organizations have worked out of the building, and regular maintenance and upkeep have been ongoing. The current kitchen has even been used for regular meal preps.

Upgrades for the elementary school

“The entire school is being deep cleaned and sanitized, and getting new paint throughout. In addition, most classrooms and hallways will have new flooring,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Timothy Holmes. “All of the univents have passed inspection and been fitted with all new filters, and new network cable is being run throughout the building to support our changing technology needs.”

The school district has put an independent engineer to work at the site to ensure all safety codes are met as the process continues. The Pine Island fire and water systems, as well as its elevators, have all been inspected and approved. A walk-through temperature scanner is being installed at the front door, and new equipment is arriving daily, including 200 brand new desks that will be used to replace tables because of social distancing needs.

“The classrooms are big and new,” DeBuck said. “The improvements look great. The playground looks great too. The kids will have plenty of room to do well and excel.”

Pine Island Elementary’s playground.

The district is repurposing two pieces of playground equipment from Kings Elementary, including a double-slide, to add to the Pine Island playground. The district is refurbishing the existing pieces, including adding new swings for the swingset as well as sanding and repainting surfaces. New mulch is already in place. As part of the district reopening plan, playgrounds will be sanitized regularly so they can remain available for use. Other improvements include:

  • The basketball court will be resurfaced and stenciled for kindergarten-level activities and games.
  • An outdoor classroom space will be added behind the school and the courtyard will be used as an outdoor classroom.
  • The school will have a new traffic pattern, reversing the entrances and exits for easier and safer access for students, parents and staff.

Familiar leadership at Pine Island

The school will be under the leadership of longtime district educator and administrator John Russo. A familiar face to many district families, Mr. Russo joined the district in 1974 as a middle school physical education teacher and has served thousands of students over the years. Following a brief retirement in 2015, Mr. Russo has returned to the district to become the middle school’s interim associate principal, and acting principal at both Sanfordville and Park Avenue.

Mr. Russo is happy to be adding to his 40-plus years of service to the Warwick Valley school community by assuming this role during such a critical time.

John Russo

Pine Island Elementary School principal John Russo

“Even four decades of experience doesn’t prepare you for something like a pandemic, but our Warwick school community has a wonderful reputation for looking after its students – no matter the circumstances,” said Mr. Russo. “These may be particularly exceptional circumstances, and we are certainly in uncharted waters, but I know everyone on our staff and faculty is determined to uphold our commitment to student success, and take the utmost care in safeguarding the health and well-being of our children and their families.”

With three weeks left to go until schools reopen, all past tenants have been relocated from the building and renovation activity at Pine Island is bustling. The district is planning an on-site orientation event for incoming kindergarten students and their parents, and a date will be announced on the district website and via email as soon as one is finalized.

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