School’s still in session

It just looks a little different now

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 4/28/20

HONESDALE, PA — It was March 12, and Wayne Highlands Superintendent Gregory Frigoletto and his staff were preparing to close for a week.

So were schools throughout the region.

On April …

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School’s still in session

It just looks a little different now

Posted

HONESDALE, PA — It was March 12, and Wayne Highlands Superintendent Gregory Frigoletto and his staff were preparing to close for a week.

So were schools throughout the region.

On April 10, schools closed for the rest of the year.

This is a whole other level of challenge. “The normalcy of the school day became a concern for us,” he said.

Toward that end, Wayne Highlands, Sullivan West and the other districts here have all worked hard to create a vast variety of materials and services to help students and families weather the crisis.

“In Sullivan West, our teachers, administrators and staff have been working from the first day of the closure to provide for instructional resources to be provided to students,” superintendent Stephen Walker said in an email. “We have done this in myriad ways while keeping the underlying focus on the health and wellness of our students, parents, staff and community.”

School at home these days is not the same thing as regular school, and it’s not the same thing as homeschooling. For one thing, as both Walker and Frigoletto reiterated, the real challenge is staying well.

This means no group get-togethers, no hanging out at the library and, most of all, no face-to-face learning.

“The essence of what we feel is our strength is face-to-face interacting,” said Frigoletto. Now that is gone. “How are we able to deliver our message?”

Technology is substituting for the human element, at least in the short term. “All of our teachers have worked really hard to get [online learning] up and running through Google Classrooms,” he said. The district also has a website full of resources for parents and kids, including links to enrichment sites like Khan Academy. In the high school, technology has been integrated into the curriculum, so there was a structure to build on for the kindergarten through eighth-grade kids.

Sullivan West is doing the same. Their website and school principals have kept students and parents updated, and offered harried home-teachers resources to make the job easier. For example, “we have created a proposed daily schedule for parents and students, knowing the stress that this has caused in so many of our households,” said Walker.

As the virus grinds its way through our counties, all these efforts help.

Of course, tech-reliant programs assume that students have internet access. If not, there are solutions. Schools have left their WiFi up and running, accessible from the parking lot. Plus, “We have the WiFi on at all branches,” said Western Sullivan Public Libraries director Audra Everett. The seven Wayne County public libraries have also left theirs on, said director Tracy Schwarz. “You can sit in your car, sit on the porch, or sit on the lawn.” Just stay safe, six feet apart or in cars.

If that’s not workable: “We also recognize that some of our families do not have internet access, and we have arranged for paper and pencil instructional materials to be provided, by bus, to those students and families,” Walker said. “We will be arranging a regular weekly bus schedule to drop off and pick up paper and pencil materials so that students can receive regular feedback from their teachers, even without internet access.”

“For those without internet access, we are still able to provide print materials,” said Frigoletto. Students should contact their principal for more information.

Both superintendents are mindful of the challenges that families are facing right now: the threat of illness, the shift in dynamics as families spend a lot of concentrated time together. It’s affected how they approach education for the rest of the year.

Food programs are continuing. “We are providing hundreds of free meals to students every week, both by pick-up at the elementary school and by bus drop-off,” said Sullivan West’s Walker. At Wayne Highlands, the free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch program is continuing. For more information, contact the schools.

Wayne Highlands’ Continuity of Education Plan focuses on enrichment and review and preserves ties to teachers and each other using social media. “Teachers are posting,” Frigoletto said, “connecting with students on a human level.” Not trying to teach new materials takes the pressure off parents. You’re just keeping the knowledge there and using resources to safely share the wonders of the world.

Sullivan West’s recent Bulldogs United newsletter offers mindfulness techniques, ways to stay calm and links to school social workers and counselors. “We know that this has not been easy. Not at all. Missing your friends, teachers and staff, school and normal life in general,” it says in the April issue. “Just note, that often the hardships you face in life, increase your ability to be stronger in the end. We will get through this!”

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