All schools closed until at least April 15
Students, parents and school officials statewide on Friday learned that schools will remain closed until at least April 15 as part of an executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
All school districts in the HFM BOCES region on March 15 announced temporary closures through Tuesday amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The following day Cuomo signed an executive order directing all school districts in the state to close for at least a two-week period ending on Wednesday and the suspension of 180-day instructional requirements for school districts.
During a press conference on Friday Cuomo announced the statewide school closure would be extended for another two weeks until at least April 15, with the possibility of extending the closure further to be reevaluated by the state.
Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran on Friday said he was not surprised by the announcement that school closures would be extended and expressed confidence in the ability of district teachers and administrators to continue providing remote instruction to students after seeing the transition in action over the past week and a half.
“I’m very happy with where we are in regards to remote learning,” said Halloran. “I think we’re in a pretty good place to continue and to get better at it.”
GESD began remote instruction in the days after the closure was announced. Remote learning materials were distributed to students at each city school by grade level, teacher and subject on March 18. Additionally, students at all grade levels were provided access to online programs and resources with many teachers beginning to provide instruction through teleconferencing.
Remote instruction for younger students focused primarily on retention with some new material on topics children had already been introduced to in class. Students at the middle and high school level generally continued working at the same pace and scope for most subject areas following the transition to remote instruction.
During the next two weeks Halloran said the district will likely focus on ensuring students at all grade levels are beginning to receive more explicit instruction, acknowledging teaching younger students new topics or continuing normal instruction in more technical subjects may be challenging.
“There will be different scenarios for different grade levels for sure. Math is a difficult subject to roll out new material, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t,” said Halloran.
Although most grade levels have made the transition to remote learning using technology, Halloran said district administrators are discussing whether additional physical materials may need to be distributed to younger students for the extended closure.
“We’re still working through that. If do we that we will make sure we adhere to social distancing guidelines and take as many safety precautions as we can,” Halloran noted.
Although instruction has continued during the closure, completed assignments and coursework have not been graded, except for the work of students in dual enrollment college level courses. Halloran said this policy suspending grading will continue for the two-week extended closure, although this could change if the closure is extended through the end of the current academic year.
“As the moratorium extends into next month, I think it’s important to push students to use the tools that we can,” said Halloran. “We’re not worried about grading right now because this is so different from everything their academic careers have been based on.”
As the school district looks to present students more explicit instruction, Halloran said teachers and administrators will focus on reaching out more to students who have not been engaging with remote instruction, as well as their parents.
“Many students maybe come to school to be passive to their education. Now at home they actually need to take the action of turning on their Chromebook. Some of those learners are harder to reach. When we can challenge them and motivate them face-to-face it’s an easier way to reach them than to expect that child to take personal accountability and responsibility,” said Halloran. “It is difficult to reach them in this environment, but we’re trying.”
He noted that many students are engaging with the materials and instructors remotely, adding that a number of parents have also been supportive of the district’s efforts amidst the transition.
Throughout the closure Halloran said the district has been providing free meals to hundreds of students each day and will continue to do so. Free breakfast and lunch is available to any interested students weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at pick-up sites currently located at Park Terrace Elementary School, Boulevard Elementary School, Kingsborough Elementary School and Gloversville High School.
Halloran noted that the district will suspend remote instruction during a scheduled spring break from April 10 through 17, but will continue providing free meals for students at pick-up sites.
“We think it’s important to continue to provide that over the holiday break,” he said.
Looking ahead, Halloran acknowledged that incremental extensions of school closures makes planning difficult but expressed confidence in the ability of district faculty and administrators to continue moving forward.
“Collectively speaking I think the organization has done a really nice job of meeting the challenge head on,” said Halloran.