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Capital Region Schools, Students Affected By The Pandemic, One Year In

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Over a year since COVID-19 turned life upside down, local educators are still coping with the impact of the pandemic on students, parents and teachers.

Jeff Simons is superintendent of the East Greenbush School District in Rensselaer County. He says the pandemic has shown that teachers, support staff, administrators and families can quickly adapt to uncertain circumstances.

"Our focus has been on the priority of ensuring that our students stay connected to learning, but also to ensure that we do whatever we can to extend supports to students and families to provide emotional support. We are concerned not only about the impact of COVID, on the academic success of our students, and we monitor that, and we're making sure that we are providing resources to support students as they transition back to more in person learning. But we're also concerned about the social emotional and mental health of our children and how they've been impacted by the increased isolation, which has been caused in part by the fact that our schools can't fully operate and bring all of our children into the classroom every day of the week. "

Troy School District Superintendent John Carmello agrees. He says even if we do return to some sense of "normal," it's not fully known what effect school closures have had on students.

"One of the main things that's happened over the last year is there's a lot of mental health issues. Students, without the social interactions of their peers and social interactions of, you know, other adults in their lives in the school, has been an issue. And so we've been real intentional about trying to help the students and families cope with that, and actually the adults. And so really being there to support each other and support our students and families has been really, really paramount this school year and will continue into next school year."

College students may have had the toughest transition of all. According to The College Crisis Initiative, over half of U.S. colleges were partly or primarily online last fall.

University at Albany President Havidán Rodríguez says he feels optimistic after a tumultuous year of public health measures, social distancing and remote learning. HAVIDANx "We feel pretty good. But we're still very vigilant. We're taking this very, very seriously not letting our guard down. Continuing with all our practices and strategies in order to make sure that we continue to deal with the COVID-19." Rodríguez anticipates having more in person events in the spring semester commencement and for the fall semester. Superintendents Carmello and Simons also have their sights set on September. 007 "None of us are really sure what the future will hold next year. But we've proven one thing this year is whatever it is, we can handle it as long as we're doing things together. Even when, you know, there is some sense of going back to normal weather that this September or in a future. Future September, I still think that the remote options will play some role, although probably not as major as it is right now." 008 " We're advocating for changes to state regulations that would enable more in person learning, we're encouraged by information that has come out recently from the Centers for Disease Control, which is indicated that there are some permissible changes to social distancing requirement moving from six feet to three feet under certain circumstances. And we're hopeful that our experiences over the last year in our schools will help us continue to grow and to serve our students and our families in the best way that we can."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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