Sunday, May 28, 2023

Success Stories: Parents Reveal What’s Working for In-Person Learning

Last week, we featured a round up on New York City school leaders sharing how they’ve been able to make in-person learning work. This week, we highlight parents’ stories:

My son is at LREI in the PreK, and PreK and K are 5 days a week in person from 9am-1pm.  We are utilizing 4 outdoor locations and having an outdoor school. Every class is in a pod of 12 or less. We do daily wellness checks on an app reporting his temperature and any symptoms.  All kids and teachers wear masks and keep 6 feet of space.  There are some good pictures of the outdoor set ups at @LREI on Instagram.  Lunch is delivered and pre packaged.  We do one special at home on Zoom from 2:15-2:45.


I have my K student at MUSE academy in Fort Greene Brooklyn, where tuition is $25,000 per year ($30,000 if you add afterschool). They have done a spectacular job with COVID safety: small classes, kids in masks all day, plexiglass between the seats (but the kids still sit at tables of four, which I think is great for their socialization and learning; see photo above). The kids all got COVID tested before school started, and there is a real sense that we are all working together as a community to keep the school healthy and open. MUSE is still doing rich arts programming, but I am equally impressed by their reading curriculum and use of Singapore math. I believe they may have a few kindergarten spaces available. I truly struggled with unenrolling from public school but, as an essential worker, I couldn’t wait any longer for a school schedule to materialize. I am very happy with my decision. 


Big Apple academy in Brooklyn is doing a fantastic job. Desks are spaced apart and have plastic screens, about 15 kids per class, kids weak masks and shields outside of class and masks in class. Food is individually packaged and delivered to the classroom to eat.


Winston Preparatory School is doing an amazing job with in person learning and remote. My son has a full day from 8:30-2:30 with teachers switching classrooms. Classes are live, so if he needs to stay home, he can join remotely and see his teachers. You can go in as often as you want and can change day to day. There have been a few technical glitches but they work them out and tell the students not to stress out over it.


My son goes to Heschel. I have to say that they are dealing with COVID amazingly. They have a comprehensive plan, they have had numerous town hall meetings and surveys. They started 5 days a week in person for the lower school about two weeks ago. They have an option to attend class via zoom. 12 in my son’s cohort, no parents/outsiders allowed in, masks all day, strict rules for arrival and dismissal and everything in between. My kid is so happy. They gave him a chrome book and are using class time to help kids learn to use the machine and the learning platform. They allow talking time/socializing with masks at separated desks a couple of times a day. The gym class/recess is outside. His only complaints are that the food still sucks and that he sees his friends from other cohorts in the hall and isn’t allowed to talk to them. In the end though, my kid is happy and so far healthy. (He has a twin in another school that is doing a very different kind of job…they have delayed opening twice so far.)


Catholic high school in Queens: kids attend in person every other day, all classes live via Google classroom, half of the kids at home half in class, the teacher teaches both groups at the same time, all works so far, except for some minor internet issues. All teachers are in school.


My daughter is attending St. Francis Prep on a merit scholarship. They have close to 2,500 students and they offered blended and full remote choices in a survey emailed out to parents back in July/August. They split the blended kids into two groups, Cohorts A and B with alternating days of remote and in-school. Cohort C is full remote. Ex. Cohort A started in-school on 9/14 and attended remote, live synchronous classes on 9/15.  Cohort B started on 9/14 remote, live synchronous classes and in-school on 9/15.  Cohort C started 9/14 remotely. Individual class schedules were posted in  PowerSchool app and information emailed the week before school started. Masks required for everyone in school. They ask families to answer Covid questionnaires and self check and self record temperature every morning, even on remote days. Students going into school line up for temperature checks in lobby. Lunch is pre-packaged/boxed and students eat in the cafeteria distanced apart (but not really enforced). Gym class is held outdoors. 


Our faculty and staff have been working incredibly hard since June to prepare for so many possible eventualities. They have landed on a hybrid program with a staggered start. Families can opt out of in-person learning by semester, but not switch back and forth during the semester. The things that have gone right:

1. That staggered start to in person learning, so each class could get used to their new space and the new ways of doing things. All students started Sept 2, most virtually.

2. Dividing the kids into 10-person pods with 2 teachers per pod. Middle school tracked classes, such as math, are always on Zoom, even when the kids are at school, so one math teacher isn’t exposed to multiple pods and vice versa.

2. Lunch outside, under a tent, sitting in chairs preset 6 feet apart.

3. Recess with masks.

4. Mask breaks! Short 15 minute periods between almost every class (except one) when the kids go outside, spread out, have a drink from their water bottles.

5. Same schedule every day, even when doing virtual learning from home. This includes the same breaks. I make them go outside. Once or twice I made them do household chores.

6. Decision chart on what to do regarding possible symptoms, such as a sneeze (ok to go to school if no other symptoms and not continuing), or fever (no school), then how kids are cleared for return.

7. Ethical Covenant signed by EVERY parent saying entire family will be masked when within 6 feet of others outside and other guidelines for inside.

Clearly, this has all required money and time and space. Having a small community helps too. Violations posted to social media would be noticed, and kids would be sent home for two weeks. But some of what my younger kids’ small private school has done could be adapted by larger public schools, who might be able to bring in one grade per weekday. There’s a lot of space between fully virtual and full in person.

Finally, the communication from the school has been excellent: consistent, clear, constant. They answer questions too.

Is your school doing a great job with hybrid or in-person learning? Let us know!

This piece first ran here at New York School Talk.

Alina Adams
Alina Adams is a New York City mom of 3 school-age children and a New York Times best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, figure-skating mysteries and romance novels. After going through the NYC school application process with her own children and realizing just how convoluted, Draconian and needlessly complex it was, Alina resolved to help make all parents aware of all their school choices—and how to get them—via her books, “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” and “Getting Into NYC High-School,” as well as her podcast, “NYC School Secrets: Parents Helping Parents.” Read more and listen at:


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