‘Glen Rock in Quarantine’ – the perspective of Glen Rock High School’s administrative staff

by Michael Taromina, Sports Beat Manager (Volleyball, Wrestling, and Softball)

What are your thoughts on online school? What do you like about it? Not like about it? Why?

“I think our teachers and students have been very well prepared for virtual instruction.  We have been using Schoology as a learning management system for three years now.  I am very proud of how our teachers have adapted.  Our students have been very cooperative as well. Certainly, we all miss the face to face, daily interactions.  Additionally, we miss the extra-curricular activities as well, such as athletics, performances, etc.” (John Arlotta)

“Our students, teachers, administrators, and parents have done a tremendous job pivoting from traditional instruction to virtual learning. I do not believe that it will ever replace traditional hands on instruction but, in times born out of necessity, I believe that virtual instruction can be beneficial and ensure that students can move forward with their learning. I miss the interactions with students and staff. I miss the co-curricular and extracurricular activities as well. I miss the energy in the buildings.” (Brett Charleston)

“Online school will NEVER be as great as traditional, in-person school.  The social, personal side of interacting with others and teachers is something that’s tough to replicate.  One of my favorite parts of the day was walking around during lunchtime to chat with students – something I am REALLY missing right now. That being said, in the circumstances given, I have to hand it to our staff. They have done an incredible job keeping the learning going in a fun and interactive way.  From conversations I have had with students, some students enjoy parts of being at home [getting to relax in pajamas, snack all day, nap at lunch, hang with family] while other parts not so much [missing friends, missing teachers, missing sports].” (Tina Bacolas)

“When the district first introduced Schoology, which is a learning management system, to our students a little over two years ago,  the main purpose was to provide students with an authentic digital learning tool that they would be required to use on college campuses.   The second purpose was to create a single sign-on hub for all the K-12  e-texts and digital resources that the district adopted over the past ten years.  This would save valuable instructional time as students would spend less time trying to remember/retrieve different passwords for different applications. As it turns out,  I think Schoology has been an extremely valuable platform which is helping teachers and students continue meaningful and interactive teaching and learning during the closing of schools.  Our teachers are doing an amazing job creating interesting, curriculum aligned and interactive learning activities for our students.  So, I like a certain amount of online learning for the above reasons. I think online learning has advantages and challenges. I  teach graduate level courses at Rutgers, most of which are now taught online to accommodate the hectic schedules of teachers and administrators. I like that online courses offer a certain level of flexibility for students and teachers when a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning activities and assignments are offered.  I’ve observed over the years that online  discussions provide students, who are more reflective and/or take longer to respond to questions,  more of a voice during an on-line discussion. The technology and applications allow students to write or record their thoughts, comments and responses and everyone has an equal opportunity to participate during an online discussion.  The integrated applications, such as Google,  allow students to work collaboratively on projects and assignments from different locations. My own online teaching experience and discussions with our teachers lead me to believe that no matter how hard a teacher tries to continue a normal sense of classroom community,  some of the spontaneous conversations and interactions occur less in the virtual classroom compared to a brick and mortar classroom.  The social aspects of learning are a very important part of the school experience and I’m not sure it occurs at the same level online as it does in a traditional classroom.  Learning online can take a little longer compared to learning in a physical classroom.  Online learning does require a certain level of self and time management, which can be a challenge for some students.  A hybrid learning experience for some high school students might be a schedule option in years to come as the government tries to define social distancing in schools.” (Kathleen Regan)

“As I check our teachers’ Schoology pages I think the faculty is doing a terrific job with Virtual Learning, and our students have really accepted the responsibility of learning this way.  However, not being in a classroom where teachers and students can have face to face interaction on a daily basis is something I do not like.  As far as I am concerned nothing will ever take the place of the dynamics that can take place in the regular classroom setting.” (Frank Violante)

Besides school, what have you been doing to keep yourself busy/happy during quarantine?

“Our family has used the opportunity to capitalize on the extra time we have together.  We eat dinner together each day, help the kids with their online learning, go for walks around the neighborhood each night, keeping our social distance.” (John Arlotta)

“I am pretty handy at home so I’m always doing projects around the house. Though I am required to come to work every day, I do have some additional time in the evenings and weekends to keep busy and tackle new projects. The person most upset by this is my 9th grade daughter as I make her work alongside me on the weekends since she, like everyone else, is missing her sport(s) and activities. At least I know that when she moves out of the house she will never need to hire a plumber, carpenter, or electrician!” (Brett Charleston)

“I have a 6 month old son – there’s not much “down time” around here. When the baby naps, however, I have been doing some house projects [finishing our basement], catching up on reading, and exercising.” (Tina Bacolas)

“Now that the days are longer,  my husband and I are taking longer evening walks with our dog. We enjoy chatting with our neighbors from the street while keeping social distance.  Also,  my husband and I are cooking more at home and exploring more creative recipes for dinner.  On weekends,  I’m spending time keeping up with my yoga classes online, reading, meeting up with our families on Zoom,  and doing some yard work.   Instead of heading down to Sanibel Island during spring break,  I cleaned out several closets and painted them, which was gratifying (but, not really fun).” (Kathleen Regan) 

“I’ve kept busy by keeping in touch with our Physical Education teachers and coaches and by working on the fall schedules for our athletic teams.  I have been able to do more reading, and since I very rarely leave the property I’ve spent time doing quite a bit of yard work.  I have to admit this is the best my property has looked in years.” (Frank Violante)

Overall, what/who do you miss most about normal life?

“I certainly miss seeing the people at school (work) each day.  As you know, I will be retiring at the end of the school year and would have liked the opportunity to spend as much time with the teachers and students before I leave.  Our life goals of selling our house and relocating to Florida have been put on hold as well.  But, trying to keep it all in perspective.” (John Arlotta)

“I really enjoy seeing the students and staff and miss those interactions and relationships very much.” (Brett Charleston)

“I am a social person. I miss interacting with others. I miss going out to eat, movies and getting my hair cut!” (Tina Bacolas)

“I  miss going to Brooklyn on some Sundays to visit our son, Brian, for brunch and a hug.  I also miss seeing all the teachers and students in Glen Rock, popping into classrooms and walking out to the fields in the afternoons to check out some of the sports activities.” (Kathleen Regan)* 

“What I miss most is not being able to live a normal life such as being able to visit face to face with family and friends, go to the store whenever I need to, attend a movie or go to a restaurant, etc.  All the things that over the years I have taken for granted but will really appreciate in the future.   I think everyone anxiously waits to find out what the new normal will be not only in our schools but also in our everyday lives.” (Frank Violante)


*An encouraging note from Dr. Regan

“Although these are tough times right now, this, too shall pass. I do believe once the research and medical fields tackle this virus, life will go on…but, perhaps a little differently.  That may be a good thing.”