A year after schools closed, educators reflect on pandemic’s effect

WWNY A year after schools closed, educators reflect on pandemic’s effect

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Almost one year ago at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, students received the news they wouldn’t be going to back to school for a while. A lot has happened since then.

On March 13, 2020, students walked out of school for the last time.

“When the reality set in weeks and weeks later that school would be shut for the remainder of last school year, wow. I know the day I received that news I was heartbroken,” said Watertown City School District Superintendent Patti LaBarr.

Now, teachers reflect on how they became the students.

“I have learned a whole lot about technology. I have learned more about technology in this year than in my entire life,” said Tyler Detomi, 6th grade teacher, Wiley Intermediate School.

Classrooms were empty and Zoom meetings were full. It was a hard transition to make.

“As long as you build positive relationships with the kids, you continue to encourage them, and you create a good homeschool connection, they’ll keep coming back,” said Detomi.

Outreach went beyond the classroom.

“We made sure that those families that wanted to avail themselves to free meals were able to do so, and we delivered those meals,” said Sackets Harbor Central School District Superintendent Jennifer Gaffney.

Come September, school looked different, with social distancing and temperature checks.

“We demonstrated for students what it would look like when they came back into the building - how to walk in a hallway, we have tape in the hallway to indicate the directional movement and flow of traffic,” said Gaffney.

Despite great strides, the challenges are far from over.

“The struggle for a year has been real. But as we start to come back to school five days a week, the struggle continues. Some of our students haven’t been in school for a full year, so we need to think about that,” said LaBarr.

Now schools have tools that they didn’t have a year ago, and lessons they’ve learned they can apply for the future.

“I hope that as we emerge from this pandemic, that public schools will not only get the respect but also the resources needed to meet the needs of our students today,” said Gaffney.

Meet the needs of students today to create a better tomorrow.

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