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GESD tackles remote learning

GLOVERSVILLE — Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran provided an update on the district’s ongoing efforts to support students amid the closure of schools due to the coronavirus outbreak during a virtual Board of Education meeting on Monday. The regular meeting was held a few hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the extension of statewide school closures until at least April 29.

“Students have not been in school since Friday, March 13. Monday the 16th we used as a snow day, the 17th was a conference day and the governor closed school starting Wednesday the 18th. Today marks the 16th weekday that students have not been in school and now the governor has extended the closure until April 29,” said Halloran. “We’re in the midst of a global crisis, one that is impacting the education of students here in New York state.”

The executive order issued by Cuomo closing schools across the state charged school districts with providing remote instruction to students and access to food services. The order also requires districts to provide child care services to essential workers amid school and business closures, with emphasis on providing support for healthcare workers.

“I can’t say enough about the professionalism, flexibility and responsiveness of our employees in the midst of this crisis. Their collective efforts have been nothing short of outstanding,” said Halloran.

Halloran noted that most students have been engaged with remote instruction since it began in mid-March. Following the first announced extension of school closures the district began to transition from providing learning opportunities that would keep students engaged to more explicit instruction introducing new content and materials.

“We fully recognized that teaching traditional K through 12 public education students in a virtual classroom environment does not guarantee equity. Learning disabilities, bandwidth, access to devices, external distractions, familial responsibilities, stress, etc. have all potentially impacted a student’s ability to effectively engage in a remote setting. We are working to ameliorate these discrepancies,” said Halloran.

With these challenges in mind, Halloran said district leaders are working with regional and state educators to determine how to assess student work. Work completed during the remote instructional period has not been graded up to this point and Halloran indicated this is likely to continue for grades kindergarten through eight.

“We fully understand this is a challenge for credit bearing high school courses. This is not a problem in grades K through eight. However, these grade levels should be engaged in remote instruction for the sake of learning and personal development,” said Halloran. “In many ways the challenges of learning in this environment mirrors the type of learning [students] will be doing throughout their lives far more than a traditional classroom setting.”

Due to the extended school closures, Halloran reported that third quarter grades have been calculated, with the term ending on March 13. To account for the truncated third quarter and additional time given to students to make up late or missed work for the unexpectedly short term, Halloran noted that class ranks for graduating students this year will be based on their freshman, sophomore and junior years and the first two quarters of their senior year.

The district is also awaiting details from the state Education Department following an announcement Monday that Regents exams scheduled for this spring have been cancelled.

Regardless of measures that are developed for assessing or grading students, Halloran emphasized the importance to students and parents of continued participation in remote instruction for the duration the school closure.

“I implore all parents and guardians to join us in properly placing value on the instructional opportunities we are presenting to your children in the midst of this global pandemic. It is not the educational experience that we all knew four weeks ago, but it is our reality today and we expect our students to rise to the challenge and embrace it head on. Stay engaged students, we will be reaching out to the school community this week to convey this message,” said Halloran.

In addition to providing remote instruction, the district has been providing free breakfast and lunch to all interested students on weekdays. Parents or students are able to pick up the grab-and-go meals at Boulevard Elementary School, Gloversville High School, Kingsborough Elementary School and Park Terrace Elementary School Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The district has also been delivering meals to students at DuBois Garden Apartments.

In the first 10 days of the meal distribution from March 18 through March 31 Halloran reported that the district provided meals to 2,429 students.

“Clearly we are doing our part in serving the food service needs of the district,” said Halloran.

The district has also facilitated daycare services for emergency workers during the school closure. Currently the district is serving five students from three families through existing services provided by the Fulton County YMCA.

Following Halloran’s report student board member Alissa Mangiaracina, a senior at Gloversville High School, offered the student perspective on the continuing school closure.

“Obviously this pandemic isn’t something that any of us expected, these are difficult times for everyone, but students are experiencing something very unique,” said Mangiaracina. “Some of us are obviously saddened to have some of our most treasured experiences like the play, sports and other clubs be put off by the school closing. But students are doing their best to remain positive throughout.”

Mangiaracina complimented the efforts of teachers to assist students, most of whom are navigating home schooling for the first time, while noting that students would appreciate more consistency and collaboration between teachers regarding scheduling of assignments.

“Most students feel that teachers are doing an incredible job trying to adjust to the pandemic. Obviously when they first came into teaching this isn’t what they signed up for. Many teachers are patient with students who might be having difficulty maneuvering their virtual classroom,” said Mangiaracina.

Students would benefit from consistent scheduling of assignments or lectures from teacher to get into a routine during the remote instructional period and to plan out their schoolwork each week, she added.

“We suggest a tad more coordination between teacher as many of them are making projects and assignments due within the same time frame. For example, the first week that this occurred I had three assignments due Friday and they were all rather large projects. It can be very overwhelming and while part of that is involved with student time management, we could use the help in these troubling times,” said Mangiaracina.

Mangiaracina pointed to video lectures presented by the teachers themselves as a favorite instructional tool among students in addition to virtual office hours where teachers devote time to answering questions from students and parents by email or video chat.

Beyond the practicalities of remote instruction, Mangiaracina reported that both students and teachers alike are hoping to return to school before the scheduled end of the academic year in June.

“Most importantly both students and teachers that I’ve heard from are sincerely hoping that we will eventually return to classes, obviously when it’s safe. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, we’d appreciate the closure for the end of the year to say goodbye to our friends, especially seniors,” said Mangiaracina.

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