HASBROUCK HEIGHTS/WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - Remote learning has curtailed the daily interactions between school administrators and the students they see daily. Wood-Ridge administrators are using technology to stay in contact and provide encouragement to both students and parents throughout the district during the statewide shutdown of schools.
For the youngest students at Catherine E. Doyle Elementary School, principal Anthony Albro and the teachers are using video technology so students can interact with their classmates.
"Most of my teaching staff has already presented opportunities for their students to participate in video chats as a whole group," said Albro. "This allows the students to see their friends and chat for a bit. They are most excited at the chance to do that. I try to visit all the video chats to say hello, and encourage them to keep working and take care of themselves and their families. It is my staff, at Doyle School, that has done a phenomenal job of preparing initially for the first two weeks and now are preparing to move forward."
"I like it when my teacher Mrs. Pagliocca reads us a story on zoom," said kindergartner Lily Magnusson.
"Communication between my staff members and their students/parents takes place all the time. Our school parents have helped us a great deal while balancing their own work schedules and child care schedules."
He also acknowledged some challenges that parents face.
"Most families have multiple children/students and need to attend to each one accordingly, and it certainly cannot be easy for them," he observed. "Many of my staff members, as well, need to care for their own children while creating and/or presenting lessons. I try to email our school families a few times per week with encouragement and reassurance as well as making or receiving phone calls from home as needed."
Over at Wood-Ridge Intermediate School, principal Keith Lisa recognizes the need for normalcy while students continue their studies through remote learning.
"We have tried our best to provide some semblance of normalcy in a very unusual time," he said. "For example, we've stuck to our normal half day bell schedule, periods 1 through 8. We've sent out emails (virtual bells) to the students each period letting them know to move to the next period."
Another normal part of school life is the daily morning announcements which Lisa continues for the students on video. On a normal day, this would include The Pledge of Allegiance, announcement of upcoming events or afterschool activities, and finish with a different announcement each day -- Monday Mindteaser; Quotation Tuesday; Word Wednesday; Throwback Thursday, and Fun Fact Friday.
"We wanted to continue our announcements in some form, so of course we had to do The Pledge of Allegiance which we do every day," explained Lisa. "We wanted to continue on with the specific day announcements as well in some form, so the teachers who each have an assigned week for these items have been videoing themselves presenting them. For the Monday Mindteaser, we've been taking emailed answers directly from the students and awarding them a golden Ticket (Free snack) for when they return."
"Teachers are having live meets online with my classmates, and we get to see everyone, I even had my dog on camera to see everyone," said sixth grader Jack Milne. "Mr Lisa makes the best daily announcements video starting with Pledge of Allegiance, which is nice."
"Since there are no daily afterschool activities to keep the students aware of, we wanted to provide other information and fun things to keep up their school spirit and continue to give them a sense of community," said Lisa. "We've been including plenty of pictures of kids working hard at home and have included some nice music and jokes to help make it a little entertaining and hopefully encourage them to wake up early to start their day. This past Wednesday, we had a Crazy Hat Day with kids showing off their hats while at home, and we'll continue to do other home based spirit events going forward."
"I look forward to starting my day with the morning announcements," said fourth grader Will Magnusson. "It was fun to see everyone with their crazy hats on Crazy Hat Day."
Up at Wood-Ridge Junior/Senior High School, principal Joseph Sutera and assistant principal Maria Barrows use a combination of email, social media and video to stay in touch and bolster students' spirits.
According to Barrows, "I email every student every day with Daily announcements and positive advice. We also send a video message quite regularly to parents and students. We are continuing with Wellness Wednesdays and Mindful Mondays." She said last week the schools had "a virtual spirit week, and students send me their pictures" for her to post.
Sutera recently started marking videos to stay in touch with the students. The duo also keep in touch with students through the school's Twitter feed.
"Teachers are answering questions quickly, (and) making videos for us and sending quick emails to check in," said eighth grader MaryGrace Milne. "(The Principal) is sending out videos and keeping everyone up to date and also still telling us what is expected of us. It’s kinda nice to know he’s still in charge and not letting us slack in our work."
"Every teacher has provided us with YouTube videos, pictures of their own hand written notes, and links to websites that will help us to complete the necessary work assigned," said Natalie Cala. "Aside from that, each teacher has offered direct assistance through class comments on Google Classroom or email. They provide the same help to us now that we are at home that we were already receiving when at school."
Athletic Director Marc Sinclair coordinated a push up challenge for both the students and teaching staff.
"The push up challenge was a fun way to keep staff members active and engaged. Mr.Sutera, Coach Trentacosti, and our Band teacher Mrs. Baumgartner participated."
The winners for the staff were Mr. Ben-Nun: 56 Push Ups, and Mrs. DiNapoli 45 Push Ups
"We blasted it out to the students, but we extended it because we want to offer more time for students to submit the results."
Sutera noted that while the administrators stress academics, they are also watching out for the "social and emotional health and well-being" for their students as well. They're trying to "ease the anxiety of parents and students" saying that "everybody is on board together." He explained that all the administrators, Albro, Lisa, Barrows and himself, under the direction of Superintendent Nick Cipriano have worked collaboratively to implement a district-wide remote learning program.
"Mrs. Barrows and Mr. Sutera have been communicating with all of the students every day since this all started," said Cala. "Every day they remind us what letter day it is. They also let us know that they are here for us during this time which makes me feel better that they do understand what we are all being faced with. Also, Mr. Sutera is using BlueDevilNation TV on YouTube to communicate with us and our parents. The support from the administration is extremely helpful and important in getting through this together."
"It can be hard for students because they need social interaction," said Sutera. "We'll get through this as a community."
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