By Ed Martin, Editor
Schools adapting to "distance learning" models as students return to school via laptop.
Schools adapting to "distance learning" models as students return to school via laptop.

The distance learning model, implemented by many California schools, including those in Kings County, is bound to experience a few learning curves as teachers, students, and administrators seek to work out the bugs.

Just ask a teacher at Lemoore High School.

The high school’s teaching staff began its distance learning classroom instruction on Wednesday (August 12), and as soon as students arrived (via computer), they began class like they used to: by taking roll. If a student hasn’t signed on within 10 minutes, he or she is considered absent. “We took the first three days to reinforce the rules, remind them that in that 35 minutes, we need to see your eyeballs,” said a classroom teacher contacted by The Leader.

Currently, at Lemoore High School, students begin their classes at 9 a.m. versus the traditional starting time of 8 a.m. Each class is 35 minutes long,  and the school day ends at 2:05 p.m. Teachers also have office hours from 2:10 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Teachers still put in a full day and are required to be available at 8 a.m. for teacher meetings or parent conferences or they prepare for the days’ classes.

Since Wednesday, August 5, most teachers trained on campus, but a few stayed at home to learn the programs needed to interact with homebound students. Every student was issued a Chrome Book, and every student is required to log on as soon as the class begins in the morning.

One teacher told The Leader that there had been glitches. Sometimes the program locks up or freezes. But the kinks are being worked out, he said.

As soon as class starts, students log on to their particular class. Each class has a specific code, and in the early going, it was rare to have all students sign-in on time. “Some kids are logging on late,” said an LHS teacher. “That’s a problem right now, logging on late, especially after lunch.”

Some kids may turn off their cameras or turn their videos off. “Some kids are wearing hoodies, and you can’t see their faces or when they’re lying down on the couch.” But there is optimism that the bugs will be worked out. “It’s only been three days, and we’re working the bugs out of all this stuff. I think it will ultimately run well. I wouldn’t say smoothly at this point, but it is what it is. There are some bugs to be worked out.”

Students, during the day, have a 10-minute break and a 30-minute lunch from 11:40 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Students also get homework, which they have to submit. There is even homework. “You assign homework, but it can’t be as if you were in the classroom, because you realized kids have been sitting behind a computer screen all day. You have to give him or her realistic deadlines.”

Just how are students reacting to distance learning? While only three days have passed since school began, some teachers developed a sense that kids would rather be on campus. “There’s no interaction with students. No before and after school programs.”

Just last month, administrators and teaching staff were expecting to resume classes when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared Kings County, one of 33 California counties with worsening coronavirus trends, requiring them to implement distance learning programs.

Before Newsom’s declaration, the local high school planned to take steps to screen students and staff before entering campus and require facemasks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing in the classroom.

Local elementary school districts were also prepared to have students return to classes, but they too were forced to switch to distance learning.