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Valley Stream parents, students adapt to online learning

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With school buildings closed because of the coronavirus, Valley Stream parents are grappling with a new reality of overseeing their children’s education, while teachers give assignments and teach remotely using digital tools.

In District 24, Google Classroom serves as a the primary tool for teachers to share and grade assignments, while Google Hangouts, a video chat service, allows them to interact with their students for lessons.

Children with families that do not own computers or smart devices were provided with an iPad or Chromebook when school buildings closed in mid-March, with students in kindergarten through second-grade given iPads and older students receiving Chromebooks. 

“The majority of parents like the switch to virtual learning, but some think it’s too much or not enough,” Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Sturz, said. “We are trying to make everyone happy, and we are very much engaged, but we can’t please everyone.”

Although generally well-received, he said, there have been some hurdles, most notably in the varying levels of technological knowhow among students and their parents, with younger students tending to need more assistance.

“Sometimes students need something explained in many different ways, and it becomes harder to do this virtually, but teachers are adapting,” he said. “Teachers and students are becoming more adept to using technology as tools, and this has challenged us to look at different ways of learning and teaching.” 

Remote learning, however, can never replace person-to-person social interactions among classmates, parents agreed.

“My kids can rewind and hear their lessons again, they can learn at any time, and they no longer have homework because they do all their work during virtual school,” said Simona Simone, whose two children, Giada, 11, and Olivia, 10, attend Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School, “but I want them to go back to socializing with their friends and teachers in person … They have been doing OK interacting with other students and teachers online, but it’s just not the same.”

Unlike many parents who must work at home while overseeing their children, as a stay-at-home mother, Simone said she has enjoyed the chance to spend more time with and focus on her kids. 

“We are very family-oriented,” she said. “Now I can see what they are doing in school, and they can take breaks from virtual learning to go for walks with me.” 

For Christine Pagan, whose son Joaquin, 11, attends Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School, the shift to remote learning initially came with challenges for them both.

“At first, I feel like he had a hard time focusing and finding motivation to do work because in school he had structure, and school is organized in such a way that he had breaks like recess and lunch,” she said. “I also had a hard time figuring out Google Classroom because I never used it before. I had to figure out where the work was and how to send the work.”

Within a week, however, they had developed a routine, gaining better knowledge of the required virtual tools, and Joaquin, his mother said, had come up with his own ways to stay motivated, such as logging on at different times.

Still, Pagan said, her son misses the social aspect of school, and she tries to keep him uplifted.    

“I try to help my kid understand that other kids are going through this too, so that he doesn’t feel alone,” she said. “The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, but I hope that a vaccine will be developed, so that kids can return to in-person school.”