Staying Connected: Your Stories
Connections in Education During COVID-19

Throughout New York State, administrators, teachers, and school personnel continue to demonstrate their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and New York's children. The State Education Department (NYSED) wishes to highlight the exceptional efforts of our educators to stay connected with students during the coronavirus pandemic.

This edition of Staying Connected highlights:

  • Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES' collaborative efforts to include hands-on experiences in the Residential and Commercial Electrical program
  • How the STARRS Program at Madison-Oneida BOCES broadens students' horizons with Enrichment Wednesdays

NYSED is grateful to the dedicated educators and school personnel who are working so diligently to ensure that students are safe and well. We encourage you to Submit Your Story detailing how you continue to stay connected throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Electrical Students Charged Up Over Hands-on Solar Opportunity
student working with solar equipment
Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES

Hands-on experience - when it comes to developing skills and gaining firsthand knowledge that can be used after graduation, there is no beating it. Students in the Residential and Commercial Electrical program at the Western Monroe and Orleans County (WEMOCO) Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center can attest to that, as they work on installing rooftop solar panels.

This is the first year that students in the program have had the opportunity to work with solar equipment, something that instructors Mark Chase and Mike Schmitt have been hoping to incorporate into the Residential and Commercial Electrical program for a while now. Students have already been able to assemble solar arrays that produce a measurable amount of energy, and they hope to increase that using an existing inverter purchased for the program years ago.

When Chase saw an ad on Craigslist posted by VP Supply Corp, he viewed it as an opportunity to reach out to the company. After learning about what Chase wanted to do, the company donated 12 solar panels for the class to use. Chase tapped Andrew Wright from the BOCES 2 Operations and Maintenance Department for guidance, as Wright had prior experience working with residential solar system installations. Wright helped the team create a list of equipment they would need and determine what the process would look like. From there, things took off.

One donation led to another: IronRidge™ offered mountings and fittings to mount the panels on the roof; B&L Wholesale Supply donated roofing materials, including shingles; DiVal Safety Equipment, Inc. donated harnesses so the students would be safe working on the roof; MIG Building Systems donated a gutter to make the simulation similar to what students would experience in the field; and Lowe’s donated a cart to move and store the solar panels.

Both instructors said it was inspiring to see the community come together to help these students gain hands-on experience they can bring with them to the “real world” after graduation. “IronRidge is committed to providing materials and training to the solar heroes of tomorrow,” said Angie Fryer, Senior Manager of Marketing Communications for IronRidge. “It helps the entire industry to have high quality installations be the norm, and we are excited to be a part of a relatively new and growing profession.”

By September, the required materials had been donated, and students were able to start working on the solar arrays shortly after the electrical lab was renovated to comply with COVID-19 protocols. Students began assembling the roof at the end of January; they have now completed roughly half of the work that needs to be done.
Seniors Eric Woodams (Kendall) and Brandon Barker (Brockport) were two of the first students to climb onto the mocked up roof structure and begin assembling the solar arrays. “It’s been fun!” said Eric. “I’m looking forward to seeing if the arrays can power all of the stations in the classroom.” Barker said he definitely plans to continue using the skills he is learning, both in his professional and his personal life. “I want to have solar panels on my own house [one day], and I don’t want to pay somebody else for something I am able to do myself,” he said. “This has been a great, hands-on learning opportunity!”
Later this spring, students will have the chance to observe Chase and Schmitt work with the Operations and Maintenance Department to install an additional 16 roof panels, donated by CED Greentech, to the roof of the CTE Center. After the panels are installed, the class, as well as every Residential and Commercial Electrical class in years to come, will be able to observe and track the solar panel usage and energy savings.

Another outcome of this solar project: the student assembled arrays will be deconstructed and saved for use by Residential and Commercial Electrical classes in the future.
Enrichment Wednesdays Broaden Students' Horizons in the STARRS Program
Madison-Oneida BOCES
The STARRS program at Madison-Oneida BOCES (MOBOCES) is running a weekly enrichment program this year to help increase student engagement and expand their hands-on learning opportunities. STARRS is a special education program for elementary students with intense behavioral management needs. The program focuses on students' cognitive, social, and emotional needs, emphasizes family engagement and community connections, and embeds mental and physical health services into the school day.

This year, STARRS students are able to attend in-person school five days a week, but the daily schedule is different than a typical year. Students spend more time in their own classrooms rather than moving around the building, Program Coordinator Amanda Hopkins said.
students engaging in hands-on teacher-guided activity
Enrichment Wednesdays provide an opportunity for students to meet in small, socially-distanced groups in the Media Center for a fun, hands-on teacher-guided activity in art, music, technology, or ELA.

“The kids really enjoy it. It’s a change of pace for them. It gets them out of their classrooms,” said teacher Dria Freeman, who leads the art activities. “This is something different. It’s something they look forward to. And I think that it’s very calming for them and they respond really well to it.”

In Freeman’s art activities, she emphasizes the use of different media and cooperative work, and she plans to have a virtual art show at the end of the year to showcase what students have created. Teacher Brian Haggerty leads a drumming activity, focusing on social emotional needs. MORIC Model Schools Coordinator Derek Lalonde leads a technology activity, allowing students to explore coding and robotics. And Hopkins herself leads a monthly Story and Snack, reading a book to the group and offering a related snack-making project and discussion.

Hopkins said teachers have taken the lead on developing projects, modifying activities for students who might need that, and ensuring that remote students are included.

“The instructional team has worked really hard to build this program for students to help broaden their horizons and to help motivate them to become lifelong learners,” she said.
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