Welcome to the new kids on the block: Parents on enrolling children in school

Rachel Rimer and her husband, Mark, knew this was going to be an interesting year, with a new baby arriving in the summer and sons Ethan and Jackson heading off to kindergarten and PreK 3 in the fall.

Having decided to move from midtown Manhattan to their Island summer home to avoid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, their plans changed as the new school year approached. Baby Spencer arrived as expected in late summer, but back-to-school for his big brothers meant Shelter Island School instead of those they were expected to attend in Manhattan.

They are among 63 new students who enrolled at the start of the school year on the Island.

“I’m so appreciative of what all the staff did around the clock to prepare for the new children as well as those returning,” Ms. Rimer said. “They did a great job responding to the challenge of making the experience as normal as possible for the new kids.”

She said the boys were enjoying making new friends in the first week. For the parents, Ms. Rimer said they were looking forward to adding “new eyes and opinions” to the Island, where she hoped the community would work to “improve everything together.”

For Alexandra Hakim and her husband, Chris Snyder, coming to their summer home on Ram Island March 13 was supposed to be the start of a three-day weekend “that turned into forever” when the pandemic shut down most of the greater New York area. Their children are James, who entered the PreK 4 at Shelter Island School last week, and Claire, who turns 2 today, Thursday, and is newly enrolled at the preschool at the Presbyterian Church.

The children seem to be happy in their new school settings, although Ms. Hakim said it feels strange not to be able to walk Claire all the way into the school because of COVID-19 guidelines. “It’s probably harder for me than her,” she said.

Ms. Hakim said her children going to school on the Island offers so much more than they could have expected in the city, which would have included a 30-block subway ride to and from school, and no outdoor programs in the time of COVID-19.

“Here” she said, “the schools can have programs for the children to enjoy the outdoors safely.”

Their son James has some friends from their building in Manhattan’s Upper West Side whose family is also staying on the Island, so he’s glad to have their company in school. Ms. Hakim, who’s an assistant professor at Columbia School of Social Work, said she was impressed with how well the school faculty and administration prepared for orientation.

“They were peppered with questions and suggestions from the new parents, and they were very open,” she said, “They were amenable to taking advice and making changes” based on the parents’ input.

Carolyn Angel and her husband, Adam Shopkorn, also made the decision to enroll their children, ages 5 and 7, in school here this year. “My family has had a home here since I was one month old,” she said, “and my husband and children came here from Manhattan this past March at the beginning of the pandemic and did zoom school.”

Tiffany Rolfe said, “After our work went remote March 15, we moved out here and have been here since. We own a house on Ram Island that we bought a few years back but have been coming here for the last eight years. With all of the unknowns happening in the school district in the city and with our work staying closed through at least January or longer, we made the decision to stay out here.” Their two children are enrolled in PreK and 2nd grade.

Paul and Beth Simms also made the choice to have their children, 3rd and 5th graders, attend school on the Island.