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Oyster Bay students adapt to learning from afar 

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Four days after the closure, teachers organized their curriculum to be digitally accessible. On March 19 students began learning from their homes from what teachers posted online.

“They’re doing pretty well with it,” said Vicki Walsh, a town councilwoman, who is also a mother of two seventh graders and a sophomore. “The teachers have been very productive and they’ve been interactive.” 

Different websites, including Google Classroom, were implemented and because of the circumstances, deadlines were more flexible. 

A district teacher, who wished not to be identified for fear of losing his job, said that although the district has done a good job managing the transition, he and his colleagues are working more. And because the district is using multiple websites, teachers are required to check often for schoolwork, messages and emails. 

Some students, the teacher said, are having a hard time adapting to the digital classes. He estimated that 35 percent of students do most of the work, 40 percent do some and 10 percent are not doing any work. 

 Instruction is harder because when students are not present teachers don’t know if the material is being absorbed and understood, he explained. Even so, teachers have been trying to rethink how they will teach and are adhering to a routine. Most of the students, he said, have been responsible, working to complete assignments. 

Walsh’s daughter, Nicole, a seventh-grade student at the James H. Vernon School, said she is enjoying learning at her own pace. “I like social studies at home," she said, "because we get fun videos and stuff.”

Part of the curriculum for Kathryn Moore, a senior at Oyster Bay High School, includes watching movies. “For my English class, we have a film to watch each week and then a response is due later that week,” Moore said. “But for classes like AP Calculus, we have daily classroom assignments that are due.” 

Her workload, she said, has been about the same as when she was learning in a classroom. “But I know for a lot of the juniors and other people in my grade who doubled up on science classes, that they definitely feel pressured by the work,” she said. 

To help keep students engage in learning, some teachers have been implementing fun virtual experiences. “Today [my children] actually had a live tour with Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay,” Walsh said. “They enjoyed it. It was a few classes combined, so I think that was something different, something they’ve never done before.” 

The school district has cancelled spring break, as per state Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order on March 30. “Obviously as a senior it’s hard to not have a last break or have a shortened softball season if we have one.” Moore said. “It’s an upsetting time. But we all understand why with the precautions that the school has to take to make sure we’re all safe.” 

She said her senior class does understand the importance of social distancing, but they are saddened by the situation.