For the first time since the pandemic began, retirees in September had the option of attending the RTC general membership meeting in person at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.
There will be two in-person New Retiree Luncheons on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29. The 2022-23 Days at the University in New York and Florida will take place at UFT offices, too. Si Beagle Learning Centers, which have continued to offer remote courses, have added back more in-person classes, theater experiences, tours and dine-arounds.
The UFT has been judicious in bringing back in-person opportunities while maintaining virtual options to accommodate chapter members’ preferences and allow for wider engagement and involvement.
“We treated the new reality of the pandemic as an opportunity rather than a curse,” said RTC Chapter Leader Tom Murphy. “Whereas up to 200 to 400 retirees came to in-person meetings before the pandemic, 4,000 participate with Zoom, not limited by geography or time. We can never go back.”
One afternoon in late September at the Si Beagle program’s Manhattan Learning Center, two tables of beginners and one table of intermediates played Mah Jongg, the Chinese tiles game, with assistance from Si Beagle instructor Jean Somerville.
Jeanne Linden, a retiree who taught in Queens, said she was comfortable returning for Mah Jongg because she had recently received her COVID-19 booster. The women in the class are nice and do not take the game too seriously, she said. “I’m a people person,” Linden said. “I’m not a Zoomer. I don’t do very well on machines.”
Jean Smyth, who retired from teaching 10 years ago, said being back for Mah Jongg was wonderful. “It’s a fun game, but it’s only fun because you play with other people,” she said.
Smyth said she was glad she could attend the October RTC membership meeting in person. “I hate Zoom,” she said.
In addition to remote and in-person Si Beagle classes, the UFT Florida Center offers a Day at the University lecture series to attract more retirees who may not want to commit to a course with seven or eight classes, said Gerri Herskowitz, the center’s director.
The previous year’s series of three lectures were well-received, and there will be five this year. A November outing for high tea is sold out, and the center offers one-day experiences during intersession for people interested in the arts and cooking.
“We’re trying to offer more one- or two-shot deals, thinking maybe that will encourage more people to come,” said Herskowitz, who works with Patti Vitucci, the activities director.
In New York, the Day at the University is scheduled for June 9 at UFT headquarters unless there are pandemic-related concerns that would require a virtual event.
Joan Vreeland, who retired five years ago, said she is comfortable with both virtual and in-person options. She takes the Mah Jongg class and a watercolor class in person at the Manhattan Si Beagle center, as well as two cinema classes virtually. “I don’t mind Zoom,” she said.