Home Learning at Rye Neck
By Janice Llanes Fabry
The Rye Neck School District began Home Learning on March 18, continued through the previously scheduled spring break, and is still going strong. Governor Cuomo’s mandated statewide school closures are currently in effect through May 15. Presciently, Rye Neck was in a good place. Having been designated a Google Reference District back in May 2017, established it as a foundation of technological dexterity.
“It enabled our staff to quickly switch to home learning, using a tool familiar to teachers and students. For our students, the transition was seamless with the Google platform,” noted District Superintendent Dr. Barbara Ferraro. “As we continue with distance learning, the outstanding creativity, energy, and professionalism of the Rye Neck faculty amazes me. Whether in the brick–and–mortar classroom, or the virtual classroom, talented teachers can motivate and inspire their students and learning will take hold.”
Before closing, the District reached out to families to ensure they had access to technology. The need grew when more and more parents began working from home and sharing devices became increasingly challenging.
“In order to keep things as stable as possible, it is important to equip students with platforms they are used to,” noted Data Privacy and Instructional Technology Coordinator Mary Lanza about the additional Chromebooks distributed on top of the 1,600 already in use.
As the pandemic intensified and Gov. Cuomo extended the original school closures, the District ramped up its efforts in a multi-step process.
“When we realized we’d be closed for more than a couple of weeks, we needed more than Google Classroom to keep students and teachers connected and maintain the academic level that our students are accustomed to,” explained Lanza.
Subsequently, teachers were swiftly trained in Screencastify, Google Meet, and Zoom to support the remote learning program. Screencastify is a screen recorder for editing and sharing videos, Google Meet is high–definition video conferencing software, and Zoom provides video and audio conferencing with security features.
“We are constantly exploring new pathways,” noted Lanza. “I’m incredibly proud of how our teachers have embraced the new technologies and adapted their teaching styles.”
High School Principal Tina Wilson agrees that “realigning systems to this new learning environment” has required flexibility. “Without the ability to see and interact with students daily, we had to create additional ways to identify students and families requiring support,” remarked Wilson. “Attendance and student work completion data allow our counseling staff to identify families for outreach.”
For the third and fourth marking periods, the District has shifted from numerical to letter grades. As Wilson explained, “This system is more flexible and forgiving and favors students while enabling us to encourage continued student engagement under these changing and stressful circumstances.”