Coronavirus: Upstate New York Schools Plan TV Classrooms

Syracuse, N.Y., city and area school districts are working with a local television station in that vicinity to put public school classrooms on TV as schools shut down because of the coronavirus.

by Teri Weaver, Syracuse Media Group / March 17, 2020
Hand holding use remote control and watching television at home Shutterstock.com/MTS_Photo

(TNS) — WCNY is working with Syracuse, N.Y., city and area school districts to put public school classrooms on television as schools shut down because of the coronavirus.

The idea is to provide classroom lessons for all grade levels on TV. Ultimately anyone in WCNY’s 19-county viewing area can watch if they have Spectrum, Verizon Fios, DirecTV or an old-fashioned antenna, said the station’s president and CEO, Mitch Gelman.

But the primary goal is to reach children whose families don’t have Internet service, or who live in broadband deserts. The effort matches the mission of public television, which is to educate viewers, Gelman said.

“We’ll provide the set and production and distribution,” Gelman said. “We’ll look to the (education) experts to decide what the curriculum will be.”

Scheduling details are not yet available as official are building the new educational platform. The next meeting with school officials is 9 a.m. today. Officials are working out what subjects will be covered, which teachers will do the instruction, and when the shows will air.

Starting today, all schools in Onondaga County are closed. But this work started about a week ago, when Syracuse city schools Superintendent Jaime Alicea reached out to WCNY, Gelman said. Alicea was looking for ways to reach the 30 percent of Syracuse city students who don’t have access to broadband.

Gelman said WCNY will help fill that void in two main ways.

First, the station can preempt regular daytime shows on its flagship WCNY channel to make way for more educational programs: historical documentaries, regents reviews, quiz shows and spelling bees. That change could happen very fast. Gelman said he’s just waiting to hear from school districts about what specific content they want.

Second, WCNY is going to change its Global Connection channel into an all-classroom setting. WCNY has a production set that’s ready for broadcast classroom instruction. It’ll work something like this: An 8th-grade teacher will use it for a 25-minute lesson. There will be a number for kids to call if they have questions; other teachers will answer those phones. Then the television teacher can follow-up in the subsequent televised lesson.

Districts will contribute the teachers and the courses to create an overall programming schedule, he said. The goal is to do it as long as it’s needed, he said. WCNY has set up a resource page for kids and parents who are looking for educational and relaxing programming.

Additionally, WCNY has provided schools with some advice about its existing programming and how that might align with various grade levels.

The plan for now is to produce the shows at WCNY’s studio on West Fayette Street in Syracuse. If travel restrictions make that impossible, then production might switch to online recordings of teachers. “We’re flexible,” Gelman said.

WCNY’s main channel in the Syracuse area is 24.1 for antenna, 11 for Spectrum basic, 11 or 1221 for Spectrum digital, 11 or 511 for Fios, 24-1 for DirecTV and 24 for Dish.

WCNY’s Global connection channel in the Syracuse area is 24.3 for antenna, 1276 for Spectrum digital, 467 for Fios, and 24-2 for DirecTV.

©2020 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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