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Remote learning offers opportunities for much enrichment for MCVTS students

Remote learning offers opportunities for much enrichment for MCVTS students

Six weeks after they left their classrooms, education continues for the 2,100 students of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools.

Using such programs as Google Meet and Zoom, classes are being conducted on roughly what would have been a half-day schedule before schools were closed. Classes meet from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a half-hour off for lunch. Faculty and staff hold office hours from 1:30 to 3:30 for students with questions or who need extra help.

Superintendent of Schools Dianne D. Veilleux said the district will continue to develop resources and guidelines for instruction, with online professional development available to teachers and support staff.

“School staff are encouraged to continue to utilize all online learning communities, platforms and meetings to access support and supervision,” she said. “I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone's hard work and professionalism in this challenging time.”

Attendance is taken at 9, and students who do not check in are contacted by guidance counselors or other staff.

“The teachers have been great, and the kids have been responding well to it,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Bicsko.

John Jeffries, principal of the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technologies in Edison, said teachers use a HoverCam to show students diagrams or calculations. He said he regularly checks in on classes to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Seniors made their final mentorship presentations online over three days, Jeffries said, and they performed very well.

East Brunswick Campus Principal Michael Cappiello said three guest artists have been booked to perform virtual master classes in music and dance for School of the Arts students. In addition, a professor from SCAD, the University for Creative Careers in Savannah, Ga., conducted an online class for graphic design students.

 Digital film students, led by instructor Louis Libitz, held a streaming film festival, which they called the Outbreak Film Fest. Students were given two weeks to come up with a concept, then produce, film and edit it. The entries were judged by MCVTS alumni and will be shown during the district’s annual film festival, which also may become a virtual event.

 “It was not about the quality of the work like our annual film festival, but how to problem-solve through their concepts,” Libitz said. “It’s something to remember what they did during this historic time of shelter in place.”

 “Our staff has done an amazing job embracing the challenge of remote learning and instruction,” Cappiello said. “They have provided students with unique and rich learning experiences, and they continue to grow professionally with all that is offered in this digital platform for education.

 “Students have also stepped up to the plate to learn in this new environment, and many students have performed exceptionally given the circumstances surrounding school closures,” he added. “I would also like to commend the parents and guardians for accepting their new role as they turn their kitchens and living rooms into makeshift classrooms.”

 Terri Ann Sullivan, principal of the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences in Woodbridge, said the school has been holding virtual spirit days with Student Council officers and has continued with its Whole School Wellness goals, including posting mindfulness, meditation, and indoor activities, such as Zoom yoga classes.

 In a distance learning lunch program, Woodbridge Academy students posted pictures of their lunches, with some students giving their sandwiches faces.

 “We had virtual meetings to allow teachers to share their best practices in distance learning,” Sullivan said. “It is fantastic to see the routines and high-quality instruction continue without interruption.”

 Physical education teachers have been offering exercise programs that students can do at home.

 Sean McDonald, director of career and technical education, said career classes and certification programs have successfully made the transition to online learning.

 “We had the capability to do much of this across the district prior to the shutdown, but we never envisioned needing to utilize it as much as we have now,” he said. “The transition to remote and online instruction has gone relatively well across our programs.”

 He said arts technology students have participated in online workshops on such topics as audio engineering, with singer and band leader Remember Jones lined up for an upcoming program.

 “AWS has given access to curriculum online and is now being used in our welding program, and auto students are accessing online modules for Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar,” McDonald said.

 Box lunches are being provided to students in need on the East Brunswick, Perth Amboy and Piscataway campuses. On Monday, students can pick up two meals and on Wednesday, three.

 “It’s equivalent to the cold lunch they would have gotten at school,” Bicsko said. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of it.”

 The district has loaned a number of its 3D printers to Middlesex County to fabricate face shields for medical workers and emergency personnel. Several faculty members are doing the same work from home.

 Other students and staff are involved in community service, such as Edison Academy junior Sruthi Suresh, who has volunteered with employees of Siemens Corp. to make face shields for healthcare workers. More than 200 have been delivered to hospitals.

While graduation still is scheduled for the end of June, Veilleux said it may have to be postponed.

Applications are being accepted from eighth-graders who would like to attend the East Brunswick, Perth Amboy or Piscataway Campuses in the fall. They can be submitted online at Interviews will be conducted using meeting apps.

 Jeffries said the incoming class at the Edison Academy has been offered a virtual open house, and a Facebook page for the Class of 2024 has been set up by current freshman Aditya Dutt so they can ask questions of peers. He has continued virtual “Coffee with the Principal” sessions with parents.

 Sullivan sent a letter to incoming Woodbridge Academy ninth-graders in lieu of the usual Shadow a Student day.

 “Our ninth-graders are hard at work creating a video explaining their experiences and interviewing the teachers,” she said. “We plan to have a drive-through ice cream social with virtual ice-breakers if we can't have the ice cream social in June.”