SACRAMENTO, Calif — School districts across California are scrambling to shift from classroom learning to distant courses as campuses shutdown statewide in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
California's superintendent Tony Thurmond recommended on Tuesday that the state's public schools plan to provide distant learning through the end of the school year.
"Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year," Thurmond wrote in a letter to the state's 58 county superintendents.
While districts race to transition to distant learning, what is being done to make sure students don't backslide in their studies while they wait?
Dr. Kristen Coates, the Associate Superintendent with the Twin Rivers Unified School District, said the district is working as quickly as it can to start online classes.
The district began assigning Chromebooks to its students on Wednesday as online classes are set to start on April 27th. The access to the laptops will greatly help students in the district, one of the poorest in Sacramento County. About 82% of the district's more than 31,500 students qualify for free or reduced meals, according to state data.
Coates says starting where students left off is a good way to make sure they will not experience a deeper learning loss.
"We are going to go back and make sure we are targeting specific standards and area that our students need to progress into that next year," says Dr. Coates
Over at the Sacramento City Unified School District, online classes are set to start on April 13.
SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar says teachers are currently going through a self-pace distance learning training. He said to make sure students aren't left behind due to the disruption, summer school could be an option.
"We will continue to update our community as to whether or not we are going to be able to offer something during the summer," says Aguilar.
On its website, the Elk Grove Unified School District — the largest district in Northern California — says online classes for middle and high school students will begin on April 16, while elementary students will start on April 20.
Thurmond made it adamant in a Wednesday phone call that switching to online learning systems does not mean that students can slack off.
"While our campuses are closed to our student, we want to make it clear, school is not closed," Thurmond said. "We know it is a tall order. We know it is a challenge. We have to take every precaution. And out of an abundance of caution, the best thing we can do to keep our kids safe is to use distance learning to educate them."
School districts are providing maximum flexibility for students during this time of distance learning, and might move to a pass/fail grading system, Thurmond said. He said what’s most important is that the students can get the mastery of the concept. There will also be mental health providers in place for students who need the support.
Also announced today, $100,000,000 million in funding will be distributed to local education agencies throughout the state.
Still, with roughly a thousand school districts in the state of California, many people are wondering how you can possibly implement effective distance learning with that many students.
For starters, in order to help educators teach effectively using distancing learning Thurmond announced there would be a webinar Thursday, April 2, at 3 p.m., where experts and teachers will discuss how to deliver distance learning.
The webinar will be streamed live on CAEducation's Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Newsom announced Wednesday that Google has offered Chromebook laptops to students and teachers in need across the state. The technology company is also implementing 100,000 internet hotspots to make quality internet accessible across the state.
For a minimum of three months, teachers and students will be able to practice distance learning with top-quality internet access — for free.
"Google stepped up in a big way," Governor Newsom said.
Follow the conversation on Facebook with Mayde Gomez.
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