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First Day Of Township ‘Virtual’ School Gets Mixed Reviews

The first day of (virtual) school in the township was met with mixed reviews by parents and the district administration.

Students in the traditional township schools began the 2020-21 school year on September 8 by firing up their Chromebooks and settling down in their work spaces, as opposed to grabbing their backpacks and running out to meet the bus.

The district had originally intended to offer a hybrid opening plan, through which half of a school’s students would attend in-person Monday through Thursday of one week, while the other half of the students would learn remotely. The two groups would switch off week-by-week.

Fridays were to be used for deep cleaning and teacher in-service training.

Students could also opt for remote learning, which a large number decided to do.

But the number of teachers who were set to ask for leaves of absence, plus the expected daily absenteeism rate, led district officials last month to decide to open virtually, and to stay that way at least until Thanksgiving.

Overall, the district administration felt that the first day “went well,” schools spokeswoman Mary Clark said in an email.

“While there are always challenges as staff and students adjust to new routines, we feel that we have resources available to help both staff and students meet those challenges,” she wrote. “We will continue to monitor the success of our virtual environment and are committed to making adjustments as needed.”

Parents gave the district a variety of grades for the first day.

Elizabeth Terhune Occhipinti, who has students in three township schools, gave the overall effort an A1.

“MacAfee was on point,” she wrote. “Middle School at Sampson G. Smith had some hiccups. High School was a little confusing as well but overall okay for all of my kids enrolled in Franklin Schools.”

Occhipinti said she pulled her child with an Individual Educational Plan “because he wasn’t receiving the support he was supposed to be getting since last March. I wasn’t going to put him through that again.”

Karen Trautmann wasn’t as upbeat. She said her 4-year-old and 7-year-old had issues with the amount of computer screen time necessary, and that their “finger muscles aren’t completely formed for writing, let alone using a Chromebook pad to manipulate.”

Amita Patani said the lack of moving around was not “realistic.”

“In a regular situation, children are moving from one class to the other, walking thru corridors, taking bathroom breaks etc., but with remote learning, they are expected to sit there from 8:50 – 1:40 with 20 mins for lunch,” she wrote. “Not realistic at all IMO.”

“My middle schooler (Sampson G. Smith) and elementary student (MacAfee), like me, thought all went relatively well,” Shinikequa White wrote. “My elementary child said technology was a bit glitchy, but she gave it a B and thought it’ll get better. My SGS kid said he’d give it an A “I guess”. They can never commit to positivity at this age LOL.”

“We have one at SGS and one at Franklin High School and both went very well!” Susan Carroll McCarthy wrote. “Kids enjoyed meeting their teachers, technology worked, not bad. One teacher was 20 min late due to technology but overall it was good!”

Jennifer Terhune Taylor wrote that, “High school, good. Elementary school with a child who gets extra services, which means more zoom calls and teachers and schedule variables, not as good. But we managed. All around the teachers were awesome.”

“For the first day, my son’s teachers (3rd grade – Claremont Elementary School) get an A+,” wrote Sandra Ahern Reier. “He was engaged and moving around on his feet, off on scavenger hunts and fun discussions about their findings, sure a few hiccups with ZOOM links but there is a learning curve for all! Kudos to the CES Staff.”

And Liz Butler Zeitler said that she “would give it an A. My 10th grader attended his classes without an issue. He had live Zoom calls for all his classes except one because the teacher had internet issues. I feel like it’s much better than last year. My son would probably give it an F for having to get up before noon.”

Cover photo: Google.com

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