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Local

Newton’s Sister City in Ukraine reopens, prepares for school year

Sofiia Mishchenko
Sofiia Mishchenko

Since the end of last school year, Olena Rohovets’, English teacher at Lyceum “Leader,” in Smila, Ukraine, Newton’s Sister City, and my colleague at GoCamp in June 2018, emailed me regarding what has transpired there since school got out last Spring.

“I am writing to you today, on Sat., 30 May to tell you that our school year 2019-2020 has already finished. The annual celebration of The Last Bell was taken place yesterday.  The online Bell ringing for school-leavers denotes their last lesson at school (virtual, of course!) and that their graduating tests are going to start.  The other students of ours are looking forward to their semester/year marks which are partially a result of their virtual learning and would plan their summer holidays ...

“As for my colleagues ... We haven’t already had staff meetings virtually — our distance teaching and working was stopped 25 May. We have our meetings in our Assembly Hall.  It is spacious enough to practice distance at least 1.5-2 metres between us.  Wearing masks is obligatory.  The price of masks is gradually decreasing: 10 hryvnas/each (nearly $ 0.40-0.50).

“At present, there is one new reported case of the COVID-19 virus in Smila (12-aged girl). 

“The work of public transport (marshrutkas) was allowed since 25 May in Smila.  But it was a small number of the city routes last week: #150, #39, #49, #4, #32 — for two buses of every route only.  Plus — the necessity of practicing social distance in a bus and a limit of passengers (according to a quantity of seats on a board).  That is why, it is obviously that it is a very big problem to get to my work in the morning.”

Lena informed me of the reopening of some of Smila’s popular restaurants, the first two of which I was able to visit when I was teaching at GoCamp.

“The Atlantida is allowed to reopen at 50% capacity (for take-away).  But The Veranda is opened.  The waiters and waitresses wear masks and gloves here. The oneshot carton dish is used only.  The Lviv Croissant cafe works only for take-away.

“Barbershops, beauty offices, small shops and supermarkets cater the customers.

“It is announced more openings on 1 June:  kindergartens, fitness centres, a swimming pool.”

Lena and her GoCamp colleague, Iryna Zharina, were determined that 13-year-olds from Lyceum “Leader” have the opportunity to participate in GoCamp. “We’ll be able to have GoCamp2020 session partially, i.e. online,” Lena wrote.  “We’ll try.  

“GoCamp2020 online community invited us to join their virtual activities. The Inspirational Talks are one of them.  We’re taking part in an online Zoom conference on 2 June at 15.00.  It’ll be a virtual meeting with an invited speaker – Mr. Ole T. Horpestad, an Ambassador of Norway in Ukraine.

“The official language of the conference is English, the target group is the 13 aged students.”

A month later, Lena wrote of the results of their effort. “My virtual GoCamp 2020’s experience I think was unsuccessful.  It was because my students were too tired of their distance learning and they understood my announce[ment] of Inspiring Talks that our learn[ing] distance would continue.  Moreover, their parents were sure it would.

“To tell the truth, we are all overwhelming.  Not now! A very challenging year. ”

Tetyana Yarmysh, English teacher methodologist at the school, was well pleased with the scores achieved by her students on the university entrance exams.  She wrote on Aug. 6:  “Most of my graduates (the ones you are familiar with) have passed National Assessment Exam with flying colors and hopefully will be admitted to the best universities of Ukraine.  Their scores are between 185-197 of 200 possible.”

Among Tanya’s graduating students was Sofiia Mishchenko, OPEN’s student at Newton High School in 2019-20. She also did well on the exams, Tanya said, and has applied to a university in Poland.    

On Aug. 24, I heard from Alona Zhivicya, who was in my class of 15-year-olds in 2018: “Quarantine measures in Ukraine have weakened.  Now the whole country is divided into certain zones (they are called ‘red’, ‘orange’, ‘yellow’ and ‘green’).  Our region is in the ‘green’ zone, which means that we have relatively few patients and deaths from COVID-19.

“We will go to school as usual.  Our school year will begin on Sept. 1, but not all students will be present on this occasion, but only eleventh and first graders.”

Tanya thinks that it’s likely schools will open in September. “We all are tired of the news about Coronavirus updated every day.  In Smila there were 4 cases, luckily not difficult, so schools are bound to open in September.”

Cherkasy Oblast, in central Ukraine, the region in which Smila is located, has had 1,318 cases of COVID-19. A total of 908 patients have recovered from the virus, and there have been 38 deaths in the region.

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