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:

  • Long Island High School for the Arts's commitment to Creating Pathways to Careers in the Arts; and
  • Delevan Elementary's ability to support UPK programs in a hybrid instructional model.

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.
Creating Pathways to Careers in the Arts
Nassau BOCES ~ Long Island High School for the Arts (LIHSA)
student performing with puppet
For more than 45 years, Long Island High School for the Arts (LIHSA) has educated talented students; trained them in dance, music, theatre, filmmaking, and fine arts; and opened up career pathways to them.

Equity is an important issue for the administrators at LIHSA for many reasons. At its core, the school's mission is to create pathways to careers in the arts. At its base, this mission legitimizes the arts field as a career. The arts give our society purpose and teach us to feel and think creatively. Students leave LIHSA with a way to turn their talent and passion into viable occupations while also leaving their mark to make our world better.
“We need music, we need dancing, we need theater that’s through humanity; through history that has helped people cope.”
-- Mark Cocheo, LIHSA Teacher
LIHSA offers opportunities to talented Long Island students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the students cannot afford private lessons or after-school training. Admittance at LIHSA provides opportunities to students from all backgrounds and circumstances to hone their craft and pursue their dreams.

Over the years, LIHSA’s curriculum has become increasingly broad and inclusive, ensuring that the arts are taught not only from a western perspective. For example, the Rhythmic Exploration class includes artist residencies with six different artists, each representing different countries’ music and perspectives. These include: Vashti Dance Theatre (West African), Alan Asuncion- STOMP Performer, Sunny Jain (Indian), Jose Decamps (Cuban), Ryu Shu Kan (Japanese), and Paula Verdina (Brazilian-Capoeira).
“I think it is really amazing that we get to come here and do what we love and be able to express ourselves during this craziness.”
-- Zoe Cali Manko, LIHSA Student
students performing a dance
LIHSA has stayed true to its mission throughout the pandemic, understanding that students need the arts more than ever. The school's administrators worked steadily all summer to ready the facility for in-person classes every day beginning on the first day of school for the full 2020-21 academic year. By finding safe ways for all students to practice their art forms, it not only allowed for continued honing of their skills, but it provided an outlet for the emotions they were holding after months of fear and social isolation.

LIHSA set up outdoor classrooms that serve year-round for performing arts students who are vocal and instrumental musicians. Choreography in dance classes was narrowed down, allowing for curriculum guided technique while still being COVID compliant for social distance guidelines. The school applied its new safety guidelines in all aspects of its curriculum to keep students, faculty, and staff safe.
“We can serve as an exemplar of what’s possible and be an inspiration to bring back the arts.”
-- Dr. Christine Rogutsky, LIHSA Principal
In order to continue its Winter Festival, the school recorded students performing live on stage and premiered it online for families. To view a short clip from the festival, watch the video: LIHSA Winter Festival 2020 Indian Lyrical Dance
Whether Remote or In-Person, UPK is Engaged in Learning
Pioneer Central Schools ~ Delevan Elementary School
alphabet soup name sorting
The best practices for teaching UPK students are created and centered around the developmental levels of young children. Teachers will use these developmentally appropriate practices to make purposeful use of various learning formats to enhance a child’s development and learning to achieve important goals, all while establishing important relationships. Many teachers at the UPK level would agree that having a play-based, multi-sensory, hands-on curriculum, complete with opportunities for self-discovery is vital for a young child’s success in school. How can all of this be translated into the virtual world that COVID-19 has thrown us all into? This is the difficult task that has been given to all educators. Delevan Elementary is using a hybrid model where UPK children go to school face-to-face for half of the day and are virtual the other half of the day. 

When the children are at school face-to-face, the school takes every opportunity possible to create learning experiences that pertain to students’ lives and provide them with hands-on, play-based learning activities, while still following the COVID-19 safety protocols. Each child has their own set of materials. Using a class set of dish washing bins filled with water, each student has their own water table (kinetic sand or uncooked pasta can also be used as sensory fillers). Letter beads, plastic alphabet or number bubbles, or other manipulatives can be added to the water bin depending on learning goals. Students then engage with the manipulatives in the water (sorting, matching, etc.). Take-out containers can also be used to create individual alphabet soup activities. These contain alphabet pasta and letter beads of all sizes. The students use these alphabet soup bins to sort letters (letters found in their name vs. letters not found in their name, letter of the week, or identifying initial sounds).
Virtual lesson with message: You have been doing a great job so far! Now it's time for our lesson! Click on the iPad to start.
Students engage in virtual classrooms when they are learning remotely. The virtual classroom resembles the actual classroom as much as possible. Voice recordings and hyperlinks are added to the virtual classroom to make it as easy and straightforward for young children as possible. Additionally, students can access videos for mini lessons and read alouds. Thanks to hundreds of teachers who are willing to share resources, there are many virtual activities and templates that are easy to edit and add into any virtual classroom. While challenging, it is still possible to maintain connections and implement best practices for young children in a virtual setting.
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