Students, parents adjust to virtual learning

Everyone agrees in-person classes are best for students. But a decision that came Sunday evening to close Shelter Island School after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 had some parents the Reporter spoke with supporting the decision.

“It’s definitely a better experience in the classroom, but you have to take into consideration health issues,” said Lora Lomuscio, the mother of two teens. At the same time, she acknowledged that with her high schoolers Leonardo, 14 and Myla, 16, even at-home virtual learning is easier than it’s likely to be for those with elementary school students who generally need more parental involvement.

Nick and Paige Morehead are parents of two elementary school students and Mr. Morehead admits that when the school had to switch to virtual learning last spring, there was “a learning curve for everybody.”

But since he works for South Ferry and can frequently do his job at his home office, and Ms. Morehead is a school therapist in Springs who last spring worked virtually, they’ve had it easier than some in being there when their children, Cayman, 11, and Larkin, 7, need them.

Mr. Morehead credits Cayman with teaching him about best practices with his smartphone.

Monday’s closing gave the parents a chance to talk with their children that closings for one or more days might become the norm while the pandemic is still a factor.

For Cayman, that was not difficult. He gets to sleep in a bit later and adjusts easily, Mr. Morehead said.

Larkin is more wedded to routine and loves her 2nd grade teacher, Elizabeth Eklund. That makes virtual learning less appetizing, he said about his “strong willed” daughter who was glad to return to the classroom Tuesday morning.

“We have great confidence in the leadership” of the school, Mr. Morehead said.

“It’s not ideal,” Lydia Martinez Majdišová said about having to balance her day working with husband Pepe Martinez at STARs Café and the needs of her children, Emma, 16 and Sebastian, 12. But at 16, Emma is pretty much a self starter. Sebastian sometimes needs a bit more assistance, but he, too, is computer savvy and able to handle the virtual lessons when necessary, Ms. Martinez Majdišová said.

In a telephone call with her mother in Slovakia this past weekend, she said she was told schools there have mostly been closed. She was pleased that Shelter Island was able to open in-person classes in September and has been able to maintain them when so many communities have had to close for varying periods of time.

Vicki Weslek credits her mother with making it possible for her to meet the demands of her job and her children’s needs. She also has some flexibility in her work, serving as Village Clerk in Dering Harbor, operating her own business and community involvement, which through the years has included the Shelter Island School’s garden and the Empty Bowls fundraiser to benefit the Shelter Island Food Pantry. 

On Monday, she had already informed her employees at Village Hall that she might be in need of a flexible schedule if classes didn’t resume. Her three children — Harrison, 13, Evan, 11 and Elizabeth, 9 — might need her at home if classes were to remain virtual for a period of time.

But she has always followed the protocols imposed on the community during the pandemic.

“If they can be in school, great. But if they can’t, I will adjust,” she said.