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Students adjust to remote learning in Rockville Centre

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During a school vacation, activities are plentiful, and playdates are a welcome relief. This hiatus, however, is no vacation. Not only are schools closed, but so are all of the places parents rely on to educate and entertain their children: libraries, art studios, museums, recreation centers, and as of this week, playgrounds.

The Rockville Centre School District rolled out remote learning on Wednesday, March 18, and Dr. Christopher Pellettieri, assistant superintendent for curriculum and technology, said it has been going smoothly.

“So far we are getting positive feedback from many of our families on what’s being provided,” Pellettieri said. “The sense of partnership between teachers and parents has been amazing. Parents are also offering suggestions, which we are taking a look at and making adjustments.”

Schools are expected to remain closed through at least April 1.

Elizabeth Cavanaugh’s son is in kindergarten at Jennie E. Hewitt Elementary School and said the class participated in a Zoom video conference chat this week, which was a good way for him to stay connected to his teacher and to his peers.

Rockville Centre resident Deborah Dean, 65, is dealing with life at home with five of her grandchildren. “Life changed overnight,” she said, “and I’m concerned about the Domino effect—it’s not just one household.”

Her grandchildren, ages 11 to 15, are used to a routine that includes going to school, visiting friends and going to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center after school. “Now, the routine is broken, and we didn’t have a plan B.”

Dean said that she feels lucky that she is retired and can be at home with the kids all day. With the iPads they received from school, and the various video game platforms the children have for entertainment, she said, they don not mind being at home too much. Still, she has to be cautious letting them go outside and make sure they are keeping their distance from others. And as a senior citizen, she worries about her own health and is taking preventive measures to keep her immune system strong. She said the school district has been very supportive, with different teachers calling to check in with her.

“I’m okay, the kids are okay,” she said, “but life is not normal. I just hope it gets better soon.”

Chanel Harris has been home with her three children since the MLK Center, where she works, is also closed.

“It’s been kind of hard,” she said, “and they have tons of schoolwork.”

She has a second-grader and fifth-grader at Watson Elementary school, and her oldest is in sixth grade at South Side Middle School. She said they all feel overwhelmed by the amount of work sent home, and unprepared for the situation. They have been trying to make the most of it, taking short walks around the neighborhood and playing board games together.

“We’ve been making the most of it, trying to do what we can do indoors,” Harris said. “But they really want to see their friends.”

The lack of recreational and social activities is difficult, and she said her fifth-grader worries about whether her fifth-grade graduation ceremony will happen.

“This week was fine,” she said, “but I’m not sure what next week will be like.”