Inside the Quarantine Classroom
a positive experience aligned with grade-level instruction
“Good morning, Chloe, good morning, William.” Rosina Bain greets her students with a big smile. “I see your sister is with us today, how nice!”
She leans towards the screen, checking each student signed into the Zoom with that day’s roster, while the young children greet each other. Bain’s morning meetings always include something fun—on this day it was a riddle—and an overview of the day. “Your parents received a letter last night that explained the schedule and gave all the links from your classroom teacher,” said Bain. “Kindergarteners, stay on for math. Everyone else, you have time to watch reading and writing videos. I will see you again for math later this morning.”
daily live interaction with teachers and peers
Meeting the needs of elementary students during the Omicron surge
Welcome to one of Katonah-Lewisboro elementary schools’ two quarantine classrooms. The proactive step was taken by the district last fall when administrators realized the potential impact on students of the NYS Department of Health’s required 10-day quarantine for children exposed to COVID.
While many neighboring districts continued with hybrid learning, where classroom teachers address students in person and at home, Katonah-Lewisboro hired two teachers for district-wide elementary-level quarantine classes. Bain, based at Katonah Elementary, teaches kindergarteners through second graders, while Kaitlyn Orr works with third through fifth graders from Meadow Pond Elementary School.
Using Zoom and learning apps the children are familiar with, the teachers bring all students together at the beginning and end of the day, and support students’ learning through grade-level instruction in math and literacy. Equally important, they give the rest of the teachers the ability to pay attention to the students in the classroom.
“We learned through last year’s hybrid experience that a teacher can better serve students remotely when she is solely focused on those students. And the same is true in the classroom,” said Superintendent Andrew Selesnick.
Rosina Bain teaches K - grade 2
riding the wave
The system, which served approximately 40 students at a time throughout most of the fall, swelled to accommodate nearly 200 children this winter. As the Omicron variant caused more COVID-positive cases, approximately one quarter of all Katonah-Lewisboro elementary students were required to quarantine at some point.
To accommodate the increased numbers, elementary-level staff developers Alison Porcelli and Selina Hedigan worked alongside Bain and Orr, running break-out rooms that kept math and literacy lessons to manageable sizes.
using the same tools as classroom teachers
“Kindergarteners, it’s time to stretch and move,” said Bain to her first class. “Let’s start with a game. If I say a number that’s less than five, sit down. If it’s more than five, stand up!” The lesson that day was classifying and counting items by shape. Bain could easily check on students’ progress through Pear Deck, an educational app.
Meanwhile, using Jamboard, a digital whiteboard designed to support student collaboration, Orr was teaching fourth graders how to compare fractions with different denominators.
Kaitlyn Orr teaches grades 3 - 5
With so many students quarantining, the Katonah Elementary School PTO asked to learn more. Acting Principal Kweon Stambaugh and staff developers Porcelli and Hedigan sketched out the program and answered questions at the PTO’s January meeting
“I appreciate everything the district is doing,” said one parent. She also noted that when her child was quarantined, she did not receive a letter from the classroom teacher with log-in information for the quarantine class and had to obtain it from another parent.
Stambaugh allowed that the timely flow of information—between finding out about new cases to looping in quarantine and classroom teachers and parents—is a challenge. “It’s a system in progress. When it was developed, it worked. As the numbers rose, we were just trying to keep up.”
“My daughter was full remote last year. This program reminds me of that,” commented another parent. “It’s a good plan. It’s giving her stability and social interaction with other kids. It allows the classroom teacher to focus.”
KLSD is Committed to students
By late January, the Katonah-Lewisboro’s quarantine classroom numbers were dropping, thanks to a combination of being on the other side of the Omicron surge and the state health department changing the required quarantine to five days.
Whether that’s a temporary reprieve or signs of a brighter future for all, Katonah-Lewisboro’s elementary students will be getting the attention they need.