Utica, N.Y.—It was a year ago today that Whitesboro Central School District had its first day of school closure due to COVID-19 and mandatory quarantine orders, I spoke with Superintendent Brian Bellair to get his perspective on the challenging year.
“Amazing how far we’ve come during that year,” Bellair said. “From really not knowing anything about the virus to now being very conversant in the impact it has, the risks it has and what we’ve been able to do in terms of mitigation and community support have really been tremendous.”
For Bellair the biggest challenge was all the questions and unknown that came along with Covid.
“You know we deal with illness in lots of different ways,” Bellair explained. “But the unknown with Covid really was the biggest challenge. Does it live on plastic surfaces? How long does it live on paper? and really trying to figure out all that while we were trying to still provide the best opportunities to our students was extremely challenging, so the unknown with the virus was really the most difficult.”
Remote learning also brought along its own challenges, but Bellair was proud of how the students, parents and teachers stepped up.
“I have to say when faced with that challenge people did remarkably well,” Bellair said. “I was really encouraged by the way our teachers, students and our parents really took on those challenges and really did extremely well with them.”
While Bellair was impressed with how his district handled remote learning, he notes that the full effects of remote learning on students’ academics and mental health are still unknown. That is why the district is putting together a post-pandemic recovery plan.
“We’re looking at the social-emotional component, the physical component the academic component really looking at all of those areas and what we need to do to address those,” Bellair explained. “So we do plan to do that work we are actually in the process of forming that committee now. We’re looking at creating some partnerships with some universities as well so we can capitalize on some of the research that’s been done in this area. In particular, we are looking at the University of Albany because they’ve been doing some work in this area with respect to how to accurately assess where students are what are some of the impacts that the pandemic has had on people, and what are some of the best ways to go about addressing those.”