Parents Concerned as Carmel Schools Go to Partial Remote Learning

As the Carmel Central School District switches to remote learning on Wednesday’s for the remainder of the year, parents have expressed concerns with the educational value students will receive under a new schedule.

During a virtual town hall event last Monday with district officials, several parents noted that despite the challenges the current health crisis has caused, children should be in school learning and not working remotely if there’s no cause for it, adding that the students’ education will suffer.

Parents also questioned the thinking behind the district’s decision to go remote one day of the week. Some asserted their children are either already behind on their work under the current learning model or their needs aren’t being met.

“Our children are the ones that are suffering, and it’s your job and our job as parents and educators to make sure our children are taken care of,” said parent Valerie Smith. “This is what is frustrating all these parents, because our children are not being taken care of, they aren’t getting the instruction they need and they’re not getting what they need educationally, especially those with deficits.”

District officials last month made the decision to implement “Remote Wednesdays” after an evaluation of the current learning model indicated adjustments were warranted to benefit both student and teacher needs. The new schedule, which started on Nov. 18, only applies to a five-day week schedule.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Eric Stark said the new learning plan was designed to do what is best for students, not to take time away from instruction. He added the change will allow teachers to maximize their time effectively to provide personal attention to students.

Lizzette Ruiz-Giovinazzi, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction & Personnel, explained that teachers need an opportunity to evaluate student progress and plan to accommodate different learning situations due to the pandemic.

“The learning is not like it was before COVID, so everything takes more time and planning,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in the classroom that wasn’t there before, and even though you have less students, there’s a lot of challenges that teachers are faced with they weren’t faced with before.”

Since before the school year started, Stark said officials have been constantly reviewing and evaluating the districts plan at various intervals and adjusting when necessary. He noted administrators, teachers and principals will analyze the plan and meet to discuss student progress and what the district could do better moving forward.

But parents believe the district is making excuses without concrete data to support the need to go virtual once a week and is placing added pressure on parents. A petition was also sent to the district from parents objecting to the change.

“A lot of the frustration stems from, as parents, we do feel like we’re moving backwards as a school district,” parent Richelle Malafronte said. “I understand why maybe you feel teachers need more time to create better lessons, but I think parents are not quite sure if that’s worth the detriment of their overall education.”

With two elementary school students and several different learning platforms, Malafronte said she’s considered quitting her job to stay home and ensure her children don’t fall behind.

Stark said that while he agrees children should be in school learning, the change is what’s needed right now for the district to function as officials navigate the struggles caused by the pandemic. He stressed that educators and administrators are doing the best they can but continue to face the unknowns brought on by the coronavirus.

“We all lose sleep over all the things that we know our lacking in our children’s education right now,” Stark said. “We’re all doing the best we can and we’re constantly evaluating what it is that we’re doing and trying to make things better, and we will continue to do that until we are in a situation where we are able to have all our students back in school every day.”

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