IN TIME OF CORONAVIRUS
By ELIZABETH COOPER • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
With schools closed at least until April 29, Otsego County superintendents are planning for the possibility of a longer-term closure.
“Everyone is trying their best under very difficult circumstances,” said ONC BOCES Superintendent Nicholas Savin. “You have that tension of planning and doing the best for the students, with the thought of, ‘When are you planning to…?’”
Upstate, coronavirus cases have started to level off, but the virus is still active here. So far, there have been 45 cases in Otsego County, two of those ending in death.
Though children typically are not at risk for severe complications from the virus, they can have mild cases that spread to others in their orbit.
Savin’s role is to lead discussions among ONC BOCES superintendents as they determine what is best for their districts. Each superintendent must chart their own district’s course.
The uncertainty over the timing of students’ return has slowed plans for distance learning, but that is about to change.
In Cooperstown, Superintendent William Crankshaw and staff are meeting to craft a plan for more
in-depth teaching for the remainder of the school year.
“We are already in the stages of planning what instruction might look like if we continue to be closed,” he said.
So far, students have been working off packets that have been sent home at different times. Each grade, and in some cases each teacher, has decided the degree to which they have contact with their students.
Some parents have been critical of the level of guidance and involvement from teachers, while others have offered praise, Crankshaw said.
“It’s hard to call the learning packets instruction at this point,” he said. District staff is in the process of reaching out to every family to determine their level of internet connectivity, while trying to find ways of making distance learning “as meaningful as possible,” he said.
He expects to be able to give more details next week.
So far, Savin said, teaching plans vary district by district, often depending on the level of internet connectivity of students and teachers.
Oneonta Schools Superintendent Thomas Brindley said his teachers will continue to follow the approach they have been using all along.
“What we are doing now is working as well as we can under these circumstances,” he said. “We are always trying to do things better, but for now we are sticking with the instructional approach we have in place.”
His teachers have been using digital formats to connect with students. Like Cooperstown’s teachers, Oneonta’s are all following the same basic plans and covering the same content with grade levels, though their approaches and use of internet connectivity may vary, he said.
To Savin, the work and planning for distance learning will still be useful even if school reopens soon.
“We are going to learn a lot about the manner in which we can use the digital platform for learning and how distance instruction could take place,” he said. “There will be a lot of growth from this as people see that we have the capacity for distance-type learning. It will mean growth and professional development for the staff.”