Flood Brook adjusts, innovates for new schooling

Almost every student at Flood Brook received some sort of computer. Photo illustration by Annie Spratt for Unsplash

By Bruce Frauman
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

As he enters the 2nd week of classes under state restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, Flood Brook School Principal Neal McIntyre said, “The challenge we are facing in education right now is that we have to figure out everything at once.”

Since Friday, March 13, no students have attended Flood Brook School in Londonderry, which, along with the 250 other public schools, was officially shutdown by  Gov. Phil Scott as of Wednesday, March 18. Still, the schools have to continue to offer academic work for their students, provide some meals, comply with special education laws and provide childcare for those who qualify under Scott’s executive order.

Academic packets went out last Tuesday and Wednesday to students at home to maintain their academic progress. One packet went to each student, which includes work from their homeroom, special education and the music teachers.

McIntyre contends the distribution to the school’s 283 students “went great,”  that “teachers were enthusiastic and positive, and the parents were appreciative of both the effort and the quality of content in the packets.”

Every student in grades 2 through 8 — about 230 children —  was issued a computer. One fifth grader from Londonderry received a ChromeBook laptop. Kindergartners and first graders haven’t received computers because “they are using tech in their learning far less than older students,” McIntyre said, adding that the school is “making plans so every student has an equitable access to learning resources.”

He also said the school is trying to determine who “does not have reliable high speed internet so we can plug those families in with local resources that can resolve their connectivity issues.” The libraries in Weston and South Londonderry and Town Hall in Landgrove all have Wi Fi, as indicated on a state map.

Should the school closings extend beyond April 6 — an end date set by Gov. Scott that could change —  the school and supervisory union will develop plans to use distance learning.

K-first grade students use technology less in learning than their older counterparts. Photo by Pixabay.

As for meal service, McIntyre said that is “going pretty well so far.” He said about 50 of the 283 students have been provided a lunch and the next day’s breakfast. Some meals are picked up at the school while others are delivered. He said food service is currently free for any student under 18 years old who needs it.

One Londonderry fifth grader feels special receiving the meals, according to the child’s mother, who adds she is “really grateful” for the food preparers and the volunteers who deliver. She said her child has received shepherd’s pie, a turkey sandwich, salads, fruit with yogurt, milk, chips and other items.

The mother says she cannot comment on the academic package because they have been a bit “rebellious” and haven’t opened it yet, though both mother and child say that they will. Instead, they have played Monopoly, baked bread, are learning Spanish through an app, and have virtual play dates.

The student takes walks to keep physically active. The experience has been “fun and boring.” Sometimes there is a lot to do, other times not so much. Mom called her child a “good student” who is following her lead.

230 Flood Brook students received education packets. Photo by Pixabay.

Taconic and Green School District board member Dick Dale of Londonderry said he has talked with a few parents who “reported that teachers were wonderfully engaged with their students, food was being delivered, and students missed their classmates.”

He added, “Everyone in the system is working hard to advance student learning … that teachers and staff have responded to this situation with energy and creativity.”

Dale said “as a system, we have been transitioning to individualized learning for a couple of years and promoting educational innovative thinking, collaborating and programming with teachers.”

Looking ahead, he said, “This crisis has the potential to advance educational programming significantly. It will be interesting to hear about the transition from maintenance work to new learning and how students react to the ‘project boxes.’ ”

As for special education, McIntyre said, that will have to be approached “surgically” since individual education plans and other program are “all so highly individualized.” 

“The complication is twofold,” said McIntyre: How to provide students the “exact provisions” within their IEP such as one-on-one learning and how to help them “access related services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy?” Given some coordination, McIntyre says all these challenges can and will be overcome.

The state is also requiring that day care be provided for essential workers, such as medical personnel, police, fire and EMTs, and McIntyre said they are working quickly to solve the problem. He said they need to identify the essential workers and determine a safe environment. McIntyre expects day-care to be up and running very soon.

McIntyre says he is “highly encouraged by the can-do attitude toward the work we are seeing from educators in our school and supervisory union.”

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