NEWARK, N.Y. (WROC) — P-Tech, which stands for Pathways in Technology, Early College High School, is a school in Newark that has kids from five counties over 20 school districts. The kids that go to the school, which is tucked away on a Finger Lakes Community College campus, receive both a high school diploma, as well as a two-year secondary degree in a STEM field.
They also offering many classes and programming for students with special needs.
The school opened in 2019, and hadn’t even finished their first year when the pandemic hit New York State. That made an incredibly difficult time for every teacher even more surprising for P-Tech.
“It was that feeling of unease that people felt across the state, across the nation,” said Kathleen McGuigan, the principal of P-Tech. “But for teachers, so much of what we do is in person, education is all about that… How do we make that transition?”
Like every other school, they had to switch to remote learning. But when it came time to plan for the next school year, they only had one option in mind.
They started back at full-time in-person learning right on September 1st, and they haven’t looked back since.
But to facilitate in person learning, the school has many other factors going for them:
- Being in Newark, the schools never reached a zone qualification that would prohibit in person learning
- The entire 9-14 grade school only has 100 students
- The facility opened with ventilation that was already up to the highest New York State standard
Despite these advantages, they say the process has been tricky to manage. They say their success has been due to implementing the “non-negotiables” from the state guidelines (including limiting the number of students per classroom, physical distancing, and masking) ensuring student compliance, constant communication with parents and students, and a process they call “cohorting.”
“Our cohorts are by grade level, and our students travel through cohorts, so as they travel throughout the building, we’re able to maintain those distances, while ensuring that our teams have rich, rigorous learning experiences,” said McGuigan.
There are also sign up sheets at each door, and they have timed out lunch breaks, and transition times to make sure there’s limited exposure between cohorts.
P-Tech is unlike other schools in many ways. Besides their college degree program, they have a special emphasis on communication skills and hands-on learning; an area of education that tends to suffer the most when learning switches to Zoom.
Both the teachers and the students were excited to get back to the building.
“In September the kids aren’t as excited to coming back to school generally, but after that long break, where they were home alone a lot, they wanted to see their friends,” Dan Pohlein, teacher of Electronic Theory. “We do a lot of hands on work, so we’re giving the kids a lot of theoretical work, but they can apply it to different activities.”
This sentiment is shared by a current senior in Pohlein’s class, Andrew Kiedrowski. In this class, they work with a lot of technology that requires the tactile experience; like 3D printing, programming robot arms, and building small rockets.
Kiedrowski, who wants to go into aerospace technologies, is able to work on his self made and programmed rocket.
“A lot of these projects are very difficult to handle with just one person,” said Kiedrowski. “So using groups of two or three to piggyback ideas off of each other.”
Other BOCES schools in the Greater Rochester area — The Eastern Monroe Career Center (EMCC at Monroe One BOCES) and the Career and Technical Education Center at WEMOCO (at Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES) — have also been operating since September in-person.