Signing up for virtual extracurricular activities, taking frequent study breaks and consistently communicating with teachers are among the top tips for keeping students engaged during remote learning, a panel of local educators said Thursday at a Newsday Live web event.
“I would encourage parents to ask what’s available at their specific schools and join — no matter what age, get them involved,” said Lynn Cromeyn, Northport High School’s marching band and symphonic winds director.
The panel of educators shared advice and lessons from the last few months of remote learning as students get ready for a school year that likely will combine online and in-person instruction. District leaders have been meeting with parents over the last few days to discuss reopening plans.
In some districts, parents have been given deadlines to decide whether to keep their children at home for the start of the school year. But in the Plainview-Old Bethpage district, Superintendent Mary O’Meara said she hasn't imposed a hard deadline for parents.
“The challenge is that number is rapidly rising as people are hearing things that make them more uncomfortable,” O’Meara said of the number of parents choosing a full-remote start to the academic year. “I think parents who were on the fence are starting more cautiously — keeping their kids home and seeing how it goes for everybody else.”
O'Meara said students and teachers will be required to submit daily health screenings. In the event that a teacher gets sick or comes into contact with someone who's had symptoms of the coronavirus, the district hired a team of substitute teachers to be readily on hand in each building.
The challenges that districts face in the months ahead are substantial.
The Cuomo administration has been trimming payments it normally sends to school districts, colleges and other agencies by some 20% since June. The reductions heading into August include $324 million to school districts.
Teachers also are concerned about the reopenings.
On Thursday, the New York State United Teachers regional office of Nassau County sent a letter to Nassau County school communities with nine demands that districts need to meet before opening for in-person instruction. Among the demands were meeting the state's minimum standards; implementing the use of cohorts to limit student contacts; and a comprehensive plan for screening students, staff and visitors.
"If a district is unable to meet these nine points, they should consider starting remotely and gradually phase into the hybrid/in-person plan or delay the start of school until they can demonstrate they are fully prepared to reopen safely," the letter reads.
Panelists encouraged parents to use their children's teachers as resources.
"Your child's teacher is most likely to have the best resources to offer you and your kid," said Roberto Joseph, a Hofstra University professor of teaching, learning and technology.
O'Meara highly recommended supplemental resources for reading, especially for kids 5 to 8 years old. "You get one shot at learning how to read between the ages of 5 and 8," O'Meara said. "Literacy is the most important thing."
As for putting together a school-from-home area, Joseph suggested setting up a desk or other space where the student can spread out their work.
“Every 20 minutes is a decent time to take a bathroom break, a snack break," Joseph said.
Cromeyn said that for her virtual band camp this summer, she paired older band students with younger ones to start a mentorship program, with band competitions on hold.
“Motivation comes with connection,” Cromeyn said. “One of the most important reasons students stay in an elective is they have a connection to a person.”
With Yancey Roy