COVID-19 Safety Coordinator–Michael Van Wart

Tyler Faber

Due to COVID-19, last year preparations had to be made to deal with COVID-19 during the school year. New York State was constantly coming out with guidelines to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Michael Van Wart was chosen to be the COVID-19 safety coordinator for the Lindenhurst School District in the summer of 2020. The Charles Street Times was lucky enough to be able to interview him and ask him about his work as the safety coordinator. 

Michael Van Wart went to Stony Brook University for a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and then went to graduate school for accounting at the University at Albany. He then became a certified public accountant and began working for an accounting firm in NYC called PricewaterhouseCoopers for about 12 years. Michael Van Wart came to Lindenhurst about a year and a half before the pandemic because he wanted to have more time to spend with his wife and daughter. He also wanted to do work within a community and get closer to one which he was able to do here in Lindenhurst. Before becoming the safety coordinator, he was working at the business offices here in Lindenhurst where he helped manage bus routes, financial information, and many other important things that go into making the Lindenhurst school district. 

Being a safety coordinator entailed a lot of different duties and responsibilities. New York state was constantly coming out with important guidelines earlier in the pandemic and part of the safety coordinator’s job is interpreting and implementing these guidelines within the district. As Michael explains it, one of the main parts of his job is to “develop district policies to make sure we are in line with the Education department’s guidelines and the New York State Department of Health’s guidelines.” The guidelines could often be conflicting and hard to understand so this wasn’t an easy task. Another aspect of his job was making sure the reopening plan was followed and executed correctly by the district staff. He had to make sure the staff were prepared and fully understood the reopening plan and any changes that had to be made. “We can have a wonderfully written reopening plan but if the staff aren’t appropriately trained for it and don’t understand what it means, then it’s not going to work.” 

Michael also had to contact the department of health and oversee contact tracing anytime there was COVID-19 case within the district. He was also responsible for notifying anyone who was contact traced. Communication was an important part of his job in more ways than one. He was also tasked with answering questions anyone had within the district. This helps Michael feel closer to the community. “The best part about this is that it has given me an opportunity to interact with the community a lot more. When I was working in the business office, prior to taking this role, I did have some interactions directly with the community but definitely not to the same scale as now. I’m on the phone with parents all the time now explaining various things or answering questions.” 

The best part about this job is that it has given me an opportunity to interact with the community a lot more.”

— Michael Van Wart

Michael also took part in planning important events and other things during COVID-19. A great example of this is the work he did to help plan for the 2021 prom. He worked with Dr. Brodie to help develop the district’s COVID-19 testing program that would allow students to go to prom. He also handled a lot of the planning and the COVID-19 testing for when sports reopened up in the district. “I did all the COVID testing for when Athletics restarted. I got a chance to work directly with the students and have some interactions.” 

Michael Van Wart has done a lot of work to help prepare the district for COVID-19 and to help everyone get through these tough times. Because of his work in the district, he won the SCOPE Education Services Administration Service Award. Michael was nominated by the administration in the district for the award and he ended up winning. This award was well deserved and we can all thank Michael for everything he has done for the district.