Inside Cortland High School’s television production studio Thursday night, students silently operated cameras, quickly changed graphics and readied B-roll.
They produced a live talk show while Superintendent Robert Edwards and Jeff Craig, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, sat in front of television cameras answering questions on the district’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Judging by the set and production quality, it would be hard to tell that it was students, not professionals, running the show.
“The productions look like they’re professional, except they’re student-produced shows and that’s exciting,” said Dan Devlen, a television production teacher.
Thursday night’s Education Live television show put on by the Cortland Video Club. Parents and members of the public called with questions about the district’s response to the pandemic and heard the two administrators answer them live.
The show was broadcast on local cable access TV and live-streamed on the district’s website.
Devlen said that he wanted to do a live show like this to help reach out to the community.
“It makes parents who might feel like they’re on the outside feel like they’re right here with us,” he said.
“Hopefully, it’s an opportunity for the community to engage with our district,” said Melissa Quinlan, the leading teacher of the club and a video production teacher.
During the show, Edwards and Craig answered questions on how the district handled returning to school, whether the school provides personal protective equipment and whether the district will have snow days, among others.
To these, the two responded that the return has been going better than expected, given some disruptions and changes, the school is required by the state to provide protective equipment for students and that the district doesn’t see an end to snow days.
“With COVID going on, there are so many different platforms that people can ask questions but I think with this, this is just a direct line,” said Julia Guest, a senior. “The phone number’s there. You talk to a person and they answer it live and I think it’s a different connection.”
Guest, who worked on the show’s graphics and has taken television production classes, said it was good being back in the studio as the pandemic shifted a lot of work to remote learning. The show let her practice what she learned, like running onscreen graphics.
She also recently applied for a major in screenwriting at Ithaca College as she is looking to go into television production or screenwriting.
Matthew Hornyak, a senior and the president of the video club, said he had never done a live talk show like this before but liked the challenge.
“With this you kind of have to be perfect in a way or else it looks really bad,” he said.
Hornyak said producing the show proved that new activities could happen during the pandemic.
“Plus it’s what people need in information,” he said. “I think it’s an easily accessible way to get it and ask your questions without jumping through a bunch of hoops.”