On January 22, school and student representatives came together to share their need for educational support in the 2021-22 school year.
The districts are looking for financial support to pay for significant unbudgeted expenses, while the student panel talked about needing mental and emotional support to navigate through this year’s unique challenges.
The students, school superintendents and board of education members from 31 districts, legislators, WSWHE BOCES staff, educators, and key stakeholders all came together for the 6th Annual WSWHE Chief School Officers Legislative Breakfast.
OUTLINING DISTRICT NEEDS
Because the breakfast was held virtually this year, ahead of the meeting, Career and Technical Education (CTE) Culinary Arts students from both BOCES centers prepared boxes of baked goods, which were then sent to some meeting attendees. The occasion gave the CTE students a chance to practice catering skills and follow Serve Safe COVID-19 protocols.
At the meeting, Andrew Cook, the Superintendent of the Hartford Central School District and speaking on behalf of the WSWHE Chief School Officers Legislative Committee, urged legislators to make every effort to preserve financial support for public school districts in the coming school year. The committee’s three key priorities are that the state;
1. Fund 2021-22 School Aid to the Greatest Extent Possible;
2. Support a Long-Term Solution to Small Group Health Insurance Protections; and
3. Address Dramatic Cost Increases Related to Unemployment Insurance
The meeting followed these requests with questions to a small panel of elementary, middle and high school students from Queensbury, Fort Edward, Schuylerville, and Hartford.
The students talked about what challenges they’ve faced this year, what they missed out on, and what they were excited about.
A common thread was woven through their responses.
They missed not seeing friends and family, sports, and school events. When school is remote, they struggle to pay attention and to stay motivated.
Landon Cook, a 6th grader at Hartford, said that he appreciates when there are breaks during remote-learning so that he’s not staring at the computer screen all the time.
Assemblyman Robert Smullen asked the students about their access to broadband internet. (He has been championing the need to strengthen high-speed internet options to rural areas of the state as critically-important for education.) The students said that getting work done online isn’t easy for everyone.
All the students talked about the need for more connection and communication.
When asked what advice the students would give to elected officials and school administrators about how to best support them now and when they transition “back-to-normal,” the youngest voice on the call gave the most unforgettable answer.
“I think a lot of third-graders need someone to tell them that everything is going to be OK,” said Mitchell Mulder, a third-grader at Queensbury School.