Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks said the last week was a busy one.
“It was a long week but there was a lot of good learning,” he said. “The staff is a different group at the end of last week than they were at the beginning.”
Brooks said there was a lot of lesson work, much restructuring, a lot of text revisions and technology updates, the installation of equipment and the checking of camera angles for the online learning; “It was quite a week.”
Brooks said classrooms have all been redesigned to meet the new way of teaching.
“So in a week and a half we retooled all of our classrooms and also refocused all of our staff to broadcast out, in effect, creating broadcast studios in our classrooms. We will still be fine tuning in the coming days and weeks, but that was a pretty monumental effort.”
Brooks said although the district previously upgraded their interior technology systems, “broadcasting out requires more equipment, more cameras and all that stuff, so resetting it so that it works for a teacher so they can deliver their content was some heavy lifting.”
Brooks said on September 14 students and teachers began following their regular instructional online schedule. He anticipates giving another update on the district’s ‘Return To Learn Plan’ at the school board meeting on September 17, “with a keen eye on identifying an anticipated date to have kids back in the hallways.”
When asked if October 5 was the target date for the return of students in school, Brooks said, “I need some more time next week to really nail that down so a couple of key things can fall in place. I think that’s somewhere in the neighborhood but we haven’t identified a specific date yet. The later part of September is probably too ambitious, so the earlier part of October is probably spot on.”
Last week the 2020-21 school year in Highland opened with four Superintendent’s Conference Days. All staff and faculty participated in numerous training sessions in preparation for the district’s all remote opening. The training sessions covered covid-19 safety protocols on face coverings, social distancing and cleaning measures in a combined in-person and synchronous remote training. Superintendent Thomas Bongiovi said besides meeting all of the mandated requirements, the district held technology training sessions, covering the platforms of Schoology, SeeSaw, Smart Notebook, Classlink, Zoom Office 365. The district also introduced sessions on Climate & Culture, touching upon racial equality issues.
“It was a monumental task putting together those training sessions and I want to recognize [Assistant Superintendent] Sarah Dudley-Lemek for all of her hard work,” he said.
Bongiovi said the district has upgraded and inspected their ventilation systems in the school buildings because of the airborne nature of the virus. These steps included installing high quality filters and new unit vents, which are controlled by by an electronic web-based management system. The ventilation system continually replaces the air in the classrooms. When the temperature allows, outside air will be added to the air inside of the classrooms, up to 100 percent through ventilation settings as well as opening windows and doors when possible. The district will forgo the use of pedestal and box fans when students physically return to school.
The district is continually sanitizing high trafficked areas throughout the school day, such as the lobby, bathrooms, elevator buttons, doorknobs, handrails and the food service areas. The custodial staff has staggered their start times to accommodate the school population and activities. At the end of the school day they will be emptying garbage cans, sweeping classrooms, sanitizing chairs and desktops, light switches, window frames, tables and sinks and mopping floors. To accomplish this deeper cleaning every night, the school buildings will be free of students and staff.
“It’s not something that’s happening once or twice a week, we’re really going through and cleaning every single night,” Dudley-Lemek said.
Bongiovi said the district is well stocked with PPE equipment with 100,000+ adult and 30,000 child sized surgical face masks; 14,000 pairs of nitrile gloves; 100+ face shields; 87 thermometers & replacement batteries; Germicidal cleaning spray and Anti-septic wipes; 60 gallons of hand sanitizer, 200 2oz spray bottles hand sanitizer and 2,000 N95 masks. The district will be receiving 5 electrostatic sprayers and cleaning tablets; spray bottles and nozzles, 9 free standing shields for the band/chorus rooms and 55 acrylic stands for office areas and cafeteria serving lines.
The district will be providing meal pick up and delivery during the remote start to the new year. Pick up will be located at the High School under an awning in the back parking lot on Wednesdays. Parents or Guardians can call the district on the times and can pick up five complete breakfast and five complete lunches for each enrolled student. Bongiovi said it appears that a recent nation-wide ruling will make it free to all students who are interested.
Bongiovi said there are two sets of students; 70 percent of the students chose the hybrid instruction model [when students return in person] and 30% chose all remote. The instruction schedules for the Elementary, Middle and High Schools are posted on the district’s website – detailing the remote and hybrid instruction. The BOCES classes, along with Special Education information, is also posted online.
All phone numbers and emails are posted for parents to contact the Superintendent or principals, if there are any questions about the opening of the 2020-21 school year.
Dudley-Lemek summed up the launch of the new school year. “We’re excited to be back; we’re excited to see how all this comes together,” she said. “We know there are some things we are saying that might not work and we might need to pivot a little, we might need to adjust, so we need to remain flexible. We’re hoping to do the best we can for our faculty, staff and students in the circumstances. We really do try to keep the students at the center of all that we do and we appreciate all the support that the community has given us.”
Bongiovi said he is hoping the district will be given the green light to open for in person instruction on or about October 5.
The Wallkill Central School District began the academic year with all students on distance learning. The school year commenced on Wednesday, Sept. 9 and Superintendent of Schools Kevin Castle is pleased with how the first week went.
“I’m very appreciative and very pleased with how everyone responded,” he said. “From the students and their resiliency to the parents and their patience and to the teachers with their growth mindset and positive attitude that they’ve been demonstrating.”
He added that there have been some technical issues, which are planned to be resolved over the next few days by the district’s technology department.
“I’ve had the ability to visit all the buildings and in fact had the opportunity to participate in some of the Zoom sessions,” Castle said. “Just overall very pleased. And I knew that was going to be the case, I had confidence that that was gonna happen. We have a great faculty and staff and our administrators are doing a heck of a job preparing for this.”
This year, Wallkill teachers are far more equipped to handle distance learning than they were last year. Over several months, teachers and administrators developed a distance learning plan. In this plan, live instruction is taking place every day. This is in contrast to last year, when it was up to teachers to decide whether they wanted synchronous or asynchronous learning. There was no set schedule, where live instruction was guaranteed each day.
Jessica Hall, third grade teacher at Leptondale Elementary School, has been impressed with how her students have responded to virtual learning. She prefers this year’s virtual learning plan, which mimics students being in school.
“Our online learning this year is very structured with their schedule,” she said. “Their schedule virtually mimics them actually being in school for the day. So my students start every single day at 9 o’clock with a morning meeting and they know that after the morning meeting we have our math class at 9:20 so they log live into that meeting and then we do our math instruction for the day.”
The district’s next step is to bring students safely back into school. From Oct. 5 through Oct. 8, students will come in at 25 percent capacity with Oct. 9 designated as an online learning day for groups A and B. Beginning Oct. 13, students will come in at 50 percent capacity.