A Look Inside The Virtual WESS PA


“Crooked computer” by revtimtulloch is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Caroline Campbell

As a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the New York City school system has been transformed. As students have been forced to adapt to remote learning, so has the WESS parent association.


While students are living through the implications of school during this pandemic, WESS parents and families are longing to stay involved in the WESS community. The PA holds a very important role in the WESS community, for that very purpose. The PA has been working tirelessly to build a community for WESS parents and families. As well as educating and updating parents on expeditionary learning, the PA works alongside the administration and gives families a voice. However, the PA’s challenge is maintaining the hard work they have put in while on a virtual platform. 


PA co-presidents Nina Roosevelt Collmer and Kirsten Oppenheimer provided some insight into how the PA system has been impacted by the ever changing virtual circumstances. PA meetings are the main outlet for the association, which are now conducted over zoom. Even though some find zoom to be challenging, Nina and Kirsten noted that zoom has actually been a very helpful change for their meetings. It has greatly increased attendance, allowing many more parents and family members to attend meetings while also maintaining busy schedules. 


Zoom also allows the PA to utilize breakout rooms. With the WESS student body varying across six (soon to be seven) different grades, it has been a challenge to meet everyone’s needs in meetings. However, breakout rooms have solved this problem. Nina and Kirsten shared that they very recently tried breakout rooms for the first time, and they found it to be a huge success. They were able to create breakout rooms focused on different topics that parents were able to attend based on their relation and/or interest in that topic. For example, one breakout room focused on getting to know jumprope, which was helpful for new WESS families.


In general, Nina and Kirsten agreed that zoom has made it much easier to cater to all parents needs, resulting in much more efficient meetings. 


However, there have also been some noticeable limitations of a virtual Parent Association. The main challenge is creating a sense of community when the community is apart. Considering WESS has always strived to be an extremely engaging place for families to engage in WESS experiences, such as POLs, PA auctions, SLTCs, and a general welcoming of parent volunteers (to name a few), it’s a harsh adjustment to have none of those experiences in person. This also makes it difficult for new families to find their place in the community, both PA presidents noted. Many students struggled with finding remote school an effective way to engage with their learning, however, despite these challenges Nina and Kirsten feel that zoom meetings allow parents to be far more engaged in the Parent Association.


While there will continue to be challenges with virtual meetings, Kirsten and Nina both expressed that it makes the PA meetings even more important. Both presidents, and everyone who works, collaborates with, or supports the PA is making it their mission to maintain this community, and give parents an outlet. A virtual platform faces them with a challenge, but also makes them even more devoted to the association, and the WESS community. 


Presidents Kirsten Oppenheimer and Nina Roosevelt-Collmer, and the entire PA have made it their mission to support and grow the PA in hopes of supporting the entire WESS community. They hope to give all families an opportunity and a space to participate and engage with the community, and are looking forward to seeing the student body back at WESS in 2021!