Rutherford Schools and Virtual Learning
By Jennifer Ersalesi
After two days of intense preparation, the teachers in the Rutherford School District began teaching their students virtually on Wednesday, March 18th in a statewide effort to keep all staff and students safe during this pandemic. The teachers in the district have come up with many innovative ways to assist their students academically, physically, and emotionally.
Even though school buildings are not open it is important that over 100 students in the district who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches receive these meals. There is currently a waiting list of staff members who are willing to help deliver lunches to these families.
Teachers at all levels have found ways to be virtually accessible to students throughout the school day so that students and parents can reach out to them regarding assignments. By participating in Zoom chats, emailing students, and sending videos, teachers are trying to stay connected to their students and their families.
Many of the younger students at the Kindergarten Center, Washington, and Lincoln schools are missing their morning meetings and daily interactions with their principals and teachers. Kindergarten Center Supervisor of Elementary Education, Mrs. Megan Caughey, Mr. Bill Mulcahy, and Dr. Jeannie Velechko have all found ways to stay in touch with their students and re-establish morning routines virtually.
The Information Technology team has enabled distance learning for 2,700 students in the school district. Although the IT team is working from home to establish these connections, provide technical support and educate the staff on the different types of technology that can be used, they are also occasionally dropping off Chrome books to those that need them.
In the photo below (left to right): Mrs. Barbara O'Donnell (Supervisor of Computer Technology and Business Education), Mike Kivowitz, and Chris Richmond (both Network Systems Administrators).
Although the PTAs at the schools are unable to run the events they had originally planned, they are conducting online Spirit weeks to help keep students motivated and positive during this difficult time of uncertainty. Many of the schools celebrated Silly Sock Day and both teachers and students participated.
Many students are missing their teachers and the school staff and are finding creative ways to let them know how much their educators mean to them.
The custodians are working hard to make sure the buildings are cleaned and disinfected. Matera’s on Park recently acknowledged the custodial staff in the entire school district by donating lunch to them.
Photos below (left to right): Jason and Nancy at the Kindergarten Center and Kevin Dobko (Head Custodian) and Aramark employees: Ms. Alecia and Mr. Jesus.
Since teachers cannot physically see the handwritten and drawn assignments by students, they are receiving photos of their students’ work. The students are also able to share some of these assignments with their classmates on Google Classroom, as well.
To incorporate reading and foster social-emotional connections, some teachers are also recording themselves reading aloud to their students.
Photo below: Mr. Zarrolli (Second Grade Teacher at Lincoln School) and Mr. Brian Ersalesi
(K-12 Supervisor of English Language Arts and Fine, Practical and Performing Arts)
Rutherford School District employees are setting up home offices where they can spend time creating, assessing, commenting on students' work through Google Classroom, and interacting with students. Many teachers are also working alongside their own children and assisting them with their schoolwork.
The staff members within the district continue to collaborate with one another, their Supervisors, the Informational Technology team, Child Study teams, Counselors, as well as many others, to ensure that the needs of their students are met during this very difficult time.