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Distance learning isn’t perfect – but it’s working

Posted on September 11, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

When the pandemic flipped the education system upside down six months ago, people had concerns about how kids would finish the year. Here we are in a new school year and still dealing with Covid-19. 

At the start of the spring shutdown, the district rushed to create a feasible online format. Then they pulled off summer school, while readying for the new year, including a range of back-up plans. Because of state mandates requiring online learning for counties on the state’s Covid-19 Watch List, it was no surprise that we are in Distance Learning 2.0.

Parents will always have things they do and don’t like about what the school district does or doesn’t do. They voice complaints and get upset, but in the end isn’t the goal of the community to do the best for our kids? In this time of anxiety and so many unknowns, let’s see what is going right with the district’s new plan.

 Online learning is not ideal, but it’s the only option right now. No kid is elated they can only see classmates on Zoom. No teacher is happy to teach on a screen. But the kids have school-issued computers, books, and materials, and teachers have spent endless hours creating lessons to engage their students.

If someone had told us a year ago our schools would all be online, who would have believed it? Through the summer, staff and teachers logged many hours devising a variety of learning options – distance learning, in-person instruction, and a hybrid model. There were many unknowns about how the school year would look in three or six months, or even next year. 

In addition to providing meals, initially for district families and now for anyone under 18, the district set up wi-fi hotspots, and is issuing school supply kits, as well as materials for math, science, art, English, horticulture, maker labs, special day class, and even band instruments. Does this make distance learning perfect? No. But what an effort to try to make this upside-down school year the best it can be.

Campuses are quiet these days, but if you were able to walk around (sorry, no visitors) you would see teachers and instructional assistants sitting in classrooms working through lessons with students online. It isn’t going to magically be ideal, but so far it seems to be working for many. Not an easy task. But is anything in 2020 easy? 

To address the challenge of how younger students will be supervised if their parents work but can’t afford to hire someone to supervise the children, the district is entering into a $1.5 million contract with the Boys & Girls Club to provide small, safe learning environments. 

It is important to be patient with one another. When you see a teacher, administrator, or staff member, it might be easy to gripe about how your student dislikes being online. We all do. Instead, thank them. They are working hard to do a job that has made them think outside the box and sometimes recreate the box. Be kind, be supportive, and yes, be honest about things if you see a problem. And remember, nothing about this year was predictable. 

After settling on a hybrid model, on July 16 the district was required to pivot to all-distance learning based on state guidelines. “Life happens when you are making plans” is so true, and especially for everyone working to educate your kids during this crazy, scary pandemic.

– Sun Editorial Board 

 



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