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History in the making

Local students watch live inauguration of Biden, Harris in class, quarantine

Lake Placid Elementary School fifth-grade students in the class of Jon Fremante watch live coverage of the presidential inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Photo provided)

LAKE PLACID — There may not have been a sea of people crowding around the U.S. Capitol in Washington Wednesday, Jan. 20 for the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, but there were plenty of people watching virtually. Many of those viewers were local students — whether watching in a classroom, at home as they study remotely or in quarantine.

Such is life as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grip this country and change everyday living for all Americans.

Showing the inauguration live to students as it’s streamed over the internet has been a staple for some local educators in the past — mostly history teachers. But it was different this year. Pretty much anyone who wanted to watch it live saw it on television or the internet.

At Northwood School, students returned Monday, Jan. 18 from their break and immediately went into quarantine, according to Associate Head of Shool Tom Broderick. Therefore, there was no gathering to watch the inauguration.

“Classes will be remote with teachers teaching in classrooms and students either in their dorm rooms or at home,” Broderick wrote in an email.

Lake Placid Middle School seventh-grade students in the class of Ms. Hutchins watch live coverage of the presidential inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20. (Photo provided)

Northwood School Director of Marketing Darcy Norfolk said they would be encouraging students to watch the inauguration on their own while in quarantine.

“Additionally, the Humanities classes plan to discuss in class thereafter,” Norfolk wrote in an email.

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, students at the Lake Placid Middle-High School returned for in-school learning after remote learning since Jan. 7 due to some positive COVID-19 cases.

High School Principal Tammy Casey said students would watch the inauguration in the lunch room, since the swearing in was around noon. Plus, those not at lunch at the time could view the ceremonies while in class and had the opportunity to discuss the event in their history classes.

Middle School Principal Theresa Lindsay said teachers in grades 6 through 8 were encouraged to live stream the event.

President-elect Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff arrive at the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the start of the official inauguration ceremonies, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Every four years, the swearing in of a president and vice president, for either a new term or a continuation of term, is a historical event, in and of itself,” Lindsay wrote in an email. “We are one of the few countries that has a process that allows for the peaceful transfer of power. As citizens of the United States, it is our responsibility to honor the office of the presidency as its occupants come and go, but the duties of the position do not change. Regardless of what side of the aisle you are on, every inauguration should be viewed as a historical event and the most important inauguration relevant to that time in history.”

Lake Placid Elementary School Principal Sonja Franklin said the fifth-grade students would be watching the inauguration in their classrooms.

“The inauguration is an example of the traditions that help maintain our nation, and the taking of oath is one that should be held as sacred,” Franklin wrote in an email. “It is important for students to realize that there are expectations or promises that the incoming president makes to its citizens their nation.”

Asked how important is this particular inauguration was, given the events leading up to it, Franklin said, “It is important for all people to see that democracy is a process and that we as citizens may question or challenge what occurs within that democracy but that the process our nation has fought for for generations must be honored. The successful inauguration of our new president is a result of our democratic process.”

Franklin was speaking for herself, not the school, when answering questions regarding the inauguration and what she hopes students will take away from watching the event.

“I would hope that students can better understand what our founding fathers intended for our democratic society and what our soldiers fight so hard to maintain,” Franklin wrote. “It is as a united nation that we can overcome adversity and not as individuals with our own agendas. At LPES we emphasize being kind and helping one another. I believe we must be a united nation kind to all humanity and helping one another as best we can.”

Asked how she thinks the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first African American, Asian American and female vice president would affect students, Franklin wrote, “I am proud that our nation could look past historical stereotypes and vote to support Kamala Harris as vice president. I believe her example is one that all children can look towards along with the multitude of other great women in history. Young girls should see this as an example of what a strong, empowered woman can accomplish and all of our youth should see this as an example of the type of woman they may some day want to associate themselves with and help support, rather than tear down.”

Lake Placid Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Jon Fremante also answered some questions from the News.

LPN: How important is it for students to witness the inauguration — no matter who is taking the oath of office?

Fremante: It is always important for students to watch inauguration so they have an understanding of how their government works. This year is especially important because of the sharp division in our country, students need to understand that the structure and procedures of our government is more important then either political parties beliefs or agenda.

LPN: How important is this particular inauguration?

Fremante: This year’s inauguration is extra important because the students need to understand that as American citizens we have the right to protest and question our government but not the right to destroy or impact negatively other people, places or property. Both political parties have questions and concerns about the use of power and legitimacy of the election, but regardless of their parties beliefs the government must move forwards and address their concerns in a structured and formal proceedings.

LPN: What is the biggest message you want students to take away from watching the inauguration?

Fremante: I hope this year, like every year during an inauguration; students learn the importance of structure in procedures in their government. Even the importance of why the vice president is sworn in before the president.

LPN: How significant is this inauguration in terms of historical importance?

Fremante: Historically this election is important because of the political firsts. It shows the possibilities for all citizens to accomplish their goals regardless of the heritage, nationalities, color or religions.

LPN: How do you think the inauguration of Kamala Harris will affect students?

Fremante (with the help of students): The students don’t see the importance in the same way adults are reacting to these first in politics. Most students today don’t see an African American, Asian American or female being inaugurated; they see a person before all of the other labels.