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UP CLOSE: Homebound Cash family finding their groove

The Cash family poses outside their Lake Placid home on Friday, March 20. From left are Ellie (in front,) Daniel, Ethan, Amanda and Evie (in front). (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — Week 1 of distance learning for three kids, remote working for two parents and extra attention for the dog — and the Cash family is together … “still,” patriarch Daniel Cash said with a smile.

During an outside interview with the Lake Placid News on Friday, March 20 — using the social distancing standard of staying 6 feet away from the writer — Cash shared experiences of working from home and having all three children contained in a small two-story house on Old Military Road. It was Daniel and Amanda’s 16th wedding anniversary.

Distance learning

To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Lake Placid Central School District officials decided on Sunday, March 15 to shut down their schools and have students stay at home for three weeks, using distance learning, before their two-week spring break. The goal, for now, is to have students back at school by Monday, April 20.

The children all go to different schools. The oldest, 13-year-old Ethan, is in grade 8 at Lake Placid Middle School. The middle child, 11-year-old Ellie, is in grade 5 at Lake Placid Elementary School. And the youngest, 4-year-old Evie, is in pre-kindergarten at St. Agnes School.

“So usually what bug goes around, we typically get because if it’s in any of the schools, we’re gonna have it. But, so far, so good,” Daniel said.

On Monday, March 16, teachers were at the schools to help children pick up their belongings and classroom assignment packets and sign out Chromebooks if they needed a device to get online and connect with their teachers. Distance learning officially began the next day.

“All three schools have been amazing,” Daniel said. “In a couple of days, they had everything set up so that over the weekend, as soon as the first Monday happened, we had to go pick up the stuff from the school.”

The Friday before school shut down, Alicia Brandes, Evie’s teacher at St. Agnes, had packets ready to go home.

“So we’ve been playing activity bingo and other things, working on letters,” Daniel said.

It took about a week for the children to find their groove.

“The kids, especially the older ones, have really done a good job accepting that this has to happen,” Daniel said. “I was worried that it was going to take all sorts of cajoling and threatening and bartering to get them to do the school work. But they seem to have just gone, ‘OK. This is what we have to do right now.’ And they’re pretty flexible. … Not to say that it’s worked perfectly, but I would say that it’s gone pretty good so far.”

As for the distance learning, each teacher is a little different in the way they set it up. Most of Ethan’s work, for example, has been assignment-based, and Ellie has had online classes through video chat.

“She looks forward to signing on each morning with Miss (Jessica) Kelly for math, and I think she had a science one today, too,” Daniel said. “She’s a self-starter, so I don’t really have to worry about her too much. The teenager takes a little more convincing to get started in the mornings.”

Not every student has internet. Not every teacher has internet. Therefore, for many students, their distance learning may be similar to doing homework, but with help from their teachers.

“I think it depends on the class,” Daniel said. “Definitely with my son, that seems to be the way it’s kind of shaped out. There’s a variety of lessons that he’s had to do, writing assignments, different things for health and gym. He has to stay active, go do things, which is nice. And then with my daughter Ellie, it seems to be a mixture of both, some online study stuff.”

It hasn’t felt like homeschooling, he said.

“We monitor and offer assistance when we need to.”

Work from home

Daniel is a senior designer at the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, a regional marketing organization based at the Lake Placid Conference Center. He brought his desktop computer and chair home, and thanks to some “robust workflow tools available online,” it’s enabled the staff to stay connected through the transition.

Right now one of his big projects is the Lake Placid summer guide, with a print deadline of April 1

“At this point of the year, we’re really ramping up for the summer, so we really don’t have that slowdown in the spring or in the fall like a more traditional business does because we’re working at least six months ahead,” Daniel said.

Amanda works part time as the director of adult discipleship at the Adirondack Community Church in Lake Placid, and she’s the executive director for Operation Namaste, local nonprofit that provides tools and support to orthotic and prosthetic practitioners in Nepal “and beyond.”

The main challenge, Daniel said, is balancing his family time while staying attentive to the work he’s doing for ROOST.

“Working from home is really awesome unless your kids are also at home,” he said.

One positive is the location of his new work space. At ROOST, Daniel’s desk is in the back, and he doesn’t get to see daylight.

“But in the corner where I am in the house, I have four windows, so I get a lot of daylight,” he said.

Quality time

The Cash family is active, regularly taking advantage of the outdoors for activities, and the distance learning and home working hasn’t changed that part of their routines. They still go on walks as a family, and they still get in the woods when they can.

“I’ve been chasing the last little bits of snow on the various ski trails around town,” Daniel said. “I was out the last couple of days skiing at Heaven Hill and some other woodsy runs.”

Earlier in the day, Amanda went outside for a run … alone.

“We’re trying to encourage each other to not only be active as a family but also for the adults to get some decompression time away from the house and the family,” Daniel said.

Setting a schedule helps give some kind of normalcy to their home-bound lives.

“Not letting everyone sleep until noon, even though that’s tempting,” Daniel said.

They’re looking to get into some sort of rhythm for three weeks of school, and then “two weeks of nothing.”

Needless to say, life hasn’t really slowed down for the Cash family.

“Other people are talking about free time. ‘Oh, I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ Maybe eventually, but right now there’s still a lot of work to do,” Daniel said.

Even though there’s plenty to do, the pace of life has changed.

“As much as my kids love dance classes at the Dance Sanctuary, it’s nice to not have to run from work to dance classes three times a week,” Daniel said. “You take a little bit of a breath but not too deep a breath, because you don’t want to get sick.”

Community inspiration

These are challenging times for Americans, yet here in Lake Placid — home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and a popular tourist destination in the Adirondack Park — Daniel said he’s enjoyed seeing the community pull together during the coronavirus pandemic, especially since many businesses are closed and many employees have been laid off.

“It’s going to be a rough time, I think,” he said. “I guess I could say that I’m proud of the way our community has reacted to this situation, and I know that a lot of people are worried. It’s got to be weighing on them, both the people who have gotten laid off, the people who have had to do the layoffs. It’s going to be a challenging time, but for the most part what I see is support — for each other and for the community as a whole.”

Daniel sees this event as a galvanizing one for Lake Placid, one in which people are seeing what’s really important in their lives.

“It brings us back to seeing that our community is not tourism, it’s not the events, it’s not even the mountains,” he said. “Our community is the people. … I think we’re going to get through it, but it’s going to take all of us to work together.”