Ripley Central School adjusts to distance learning

Ripley Librarian Karen Kondrick.

RIPLEY — While technology has been crucial to learning during the coronavirus school closure, two educators in Ripley have also tried to ensure that every student has brand new “printed and bound” books to call their own, as well as to facilitate distance learning for everyone.

At the April 22 meeting of the Ripley Central School District Board of Education, superintendent William Caldwell commended the work of Librarian Karen Kondrick and Teacher on Special Assignment Michelle Waters in helping the distance learning experience be successful.

Kondrick obtained the donation of 1,000 books, with the assistance of Read with Robin, Firstbook and Keybank. The books were donated by The Teacher’s Desk, which annually distributes $6,000,000 of school supplies to students in need throughout Western New York.

“I contacted the Teacher’s Desk and they said they would be honored to provide our students with the Disney Publisher books, they had,” Kondrick said. “John at Teacher’s Desk said ‘We wanted to give you 1,000 so your students could get plenty of books right up through the end of the school year.'”

Kondrick said a book will be distributed to every child each Monday with the lunch delivery. The books are high quality, brand new books from the Disney Publisher, such as Percy Jackson books, story collections and first readers for the younger students, she said.

Ripley Teacher On Special Assignment Michelle Waters.

Waters said, while she has been mostly working with teachers and the needs they experience with distance learning, she has tried to help students obtain the books they need. “I support them by providing books of interest to students that request it. I also work on getting technology to families that need it,” she said.

Both women have been heavily involved in helping both faculty and families make the transition to distance learning through technology. Waters has been instrumental in implementing Seesaw as the platform for distance learning in students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Students in grades 3-6 have been using Google Classroom since this is the platform they will use in the transition to Chautauqua Lake School in seventh grade.

“This (Seesaw) is a Learning Management System that is used to push out student work and communicate with parents,” Waters said. “I have set up this system for the school and provided the necessary professional development for teachers to transition to this program.”

Waters takes part in weekly grade level and special education meetings with faculty members to review the process. “I also video conference with teachers to support them throughout this new educational journey,” she said.

Waters said the staff has been analyzing the standards that students need to meet to transition to the next grade. “We have also transitioned into using i-Ready, Khan Academy, Readworks, and more as an instructional tool.”

Before the school was closed, Kondrick’s responsibilities included providing ELA enrichment to students through library services as well as instructing students in the use of technology. She also provided professional development to the faculty about the use of technology.

This role served Kondrick well when the schools were closed. “My technology role during this pause has been amplified. Moving to a distance learning model has been a huge paradigm shift for teachers, parents,and students,” she said. “I have helped the teachers learn how to record stories, lessons, and tutorials. They have had to learn how to provide the students with resources and instruction online.”

Kondrick said that distance learning has created questions that no one could have imagined. “It is my role to figure out the answers to that,” she said. “Sometimes I already know the answer, other times I have to investigate, attend webinars, or find experts to help us.”

Teaching through distance learning is demanding, Kondrick said. “Like every other teacher right now, the time I am devoting to this outweighs my normal work hours,” she said. “One example of this is it takes twice as long to provide video tutorials, than walking up to someone and showing them how to do something.”

Her work in education takes up most of her time, Kondrick said. “I try to walk away in the evening, and on the weekend, but if a teacher or administrator needs a question answered, I like to provide it as soon as I can,” she said.

Kondrick also works with parents, especially in regard to technology. “Most of my contact with parents has been video conferencing with them to solve problems they might have with technology,” she said.

Kondrick said she realizes that the struggles of distance learning are being felt by parents, teachers and students. “I believe we have been blessed to live in a time where the resources we have are helping us to see our students, answer their questions and realize when they need our help,” she said. “Our district has been fortunate in that most of our students has some kind of access to the internet at home.”

The process has been a challenge, Kondrick said. “It is hard for students to learn or for teachers to teach when the lines of home and school are so easily blurred,” Kondrick said. “No one wants to be overwhelmed, so we’re all trying to figure out how best to do this. It is a work in progress, week to week.”

All in all, however, everyone has been learning to deal with whatever challenges arrive in order to provide quality education, Kondrick said. “It is a work in progress, week to week. We love and miss our students which I think is the hardest part right now.”


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