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Adapting to home schooling at one Boston school

Jamaica Plain News talks to Katie Grassa, principal of the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain about the challenges of running what is now a distributed school.

I’m used to using getting hundreds of hugs a day or high fives in the hallway, fist bumps from kids. But it has shifted to lots of waves and excited faces when I hop onto Zoom calls.

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Mrs.Grassa is exactly what parents are looking for in a teacher/principal.
All parents in this school should consider themselves lucky to have her.
I hope all the others schools are following her leadership

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Is it usual for kids to be hugging teachers and school administrators?

We certainly didn't do that where I grew but maybe that's because our teachers and administrators spanked us through the 9th grade?

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They just beat us.

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I teach high school. It's not uncommon.

Then again, I teach ELL newcomers, who are:

a) basically oversized elementary schoolers when it comes to the etiquette of school
b) need a lot of extra love

I've learned over the years that I don't really like physical touch but I am a hugger.

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And that’s what you took from it?

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I thought it was extremely odd also. When I was at Boston Latin in the early 70s we would have been aghast if there was any hugging of students and teachers. In fact we were barely allowed to even LOOK at then-headmaster Wilfred O'Leary on the very rare occasions when he descended from his ivory tower.

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It's not the bad old days, anymore, even at BLS, but in any case, did you notice this was a K-8 school? Lot of little kids there, and not all are hardened Tough Eggs who are forced to look at their neighbors that first day in the auditorium as they are told that one of you three won't make it out alive, as the visages of Tough Headmasters Who Take No Crap balefully look down at them at disgust at the sorry wretches with minds of mush they have to deal with this year.

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One of our many Corona complaints is the fact that our child was having such a fantastic year at the Curley in fourth grade. While we wanted him to finish it through in person, his teacher (Ms. Javaloyes) has seemed to figure online learning out almost immediately with daily Zoom classes, thoughtful homework and side projects. We are very pleased with how it is all going thus far. Leadership by Principal Grassa surely has a lot to do with this.

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If schools are delayed or still closed come Sept, will you see an influx of private school kids coming back for "online" learning for free? I'm guessing many parents are sending their kids to private schools not because of the quality of instruction, but because of the "atmosphere" of smaller classes, safer schools, and many other reasons that simply don't involve the actual quality of the teacher. Why pay 10K-40K a year for private schools when you can probably get the same online product for free with your public school program.

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Massachusetts already has had two fully online free public charter schools that I know of. These are pretty great programs overall. The student population at these schools mostly isn't people who ordinarily prefer private schools.

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The question is about whether parents who normally prefer private schools (and in these parts have to pay a lot of money for them) will pull their kids out of those schools if their kids can't actually attend them in the fall. At a private school the tuition - which can top 50K for a day school - pays not just for classes but for extra-curricular activities, music, theatre, sports, meals, etc., which you can't get through the internet.

I think the answer is yes: if local private schools can't commit to offering on-campus education this fall, a large portion of the student body will drop out over the summer. No parent wants to pay 50K for their kids to sit in front of their computers all day when they could do that for free.

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Public-school and private-school parents are not "homeschooling." I absolutely have empathy for how they are suddenly having kids home and supervising their learning, which wasn't what they signed up for. But they are not homeschooling. Homeschooling is when the parent is solely responsible for finding curriculum, overseeing its completion, direct teaching, hiring of specialists, enrollment in homeschooling classes at various institutions, and so forth. Homeschooling does not involve having a complete school curriculum created and implemented by school personnel. That's more like attending a public or private online school, which also exist and have existed. The students who go to TECCA, Laurel Springs, etc., are not homeschooled. Their parent has to make sure they log on when they are supposed to, just like how public school parents make sure the student goes to school, but the parent is not creating and implementing the curriculum, which is what homeschooling entails.

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