Back to school during a pandemic: North Country teachers share their perspectives

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Local teachers are sharing their perspectives on the challenges they have faced amid the pandemic and what their advice is going forward.

The beginning of August typically means teachers, parents and students prepare for September by buying new school supplies and getting their classrooms ready to have students attend again. The pandemic has thrown a curve ball in all of those typical plans. 

High school history teacher Alyssa Freeland shared how difficult it is to prepare for anything in this environment when no one knows what changes will be made next. “We have no idea what our schedules will look like or how we will balance doing both in person and remote learning,” Freeland said. “Normally, we’d be getting ready to set up our classrooms, but there are a lot of new restrictions and rooms still need to be set up to accommodate social distancing before we can do much.”

Teachers are learning how to adapt to these changes just as students and parents are. One teacher from General Brown commented that as teachers “we are struggling too and don’t have all the answers.”  Everything from supplies to their usual classroom activities will have to be altered regardless of how the students attend school. 

South Jefferson French teacher Françoise Piron explained how her classroom routine will be impacted by COVID regulations. “That is the part that scares me some as I feel like all the partner work, stations and other group activities we always do really contribute to success in my classroom.  I will have to re-imagine that part of my practice…[I’m] also hoping to use digital tools that can take the place of some more traditional practices.” 

When it comes to classroom supplies, Piron said that she will have to wait for more guidance from the school and the governor. If class is online Piron said she hopes that students will be provided with Chrome books from the school. She is worried about equity when it comes to digital access. In regards to bringing students back in person Freeland said that she will “need more of everything- pens, pencils, markers, so there is time to disinfect before someone else uses these items.” 

This back to school season brings many unknowns and everyone is waiting on further guidance from Governor Cuomo, which is supposed to come this week.

In the meantime, Freeland suggests having your child practice wearing a mask for a longer period of time, something she is working on herself. She also wants parents to remember to reach out to teachers, administrators or the school for extra help if their student needs it. Piron advises parents to reassure their children “that this will come to pass and to look forward to a brighter future and try to be strong and do meaningful things that will help them and others.”

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