When Governor Newsom shuttered California schools in mid-March, he told reporters that it was “unlikely that they would re-open” for the rest of the academic year. Six million public school students and their families will now remain home for an unprecedented length of time with school districts responding with their own versions of online learning.
At River Islands Technology Academy in Lathrop, a K-8 charter school built in 2013, online instruction is live. Teachers spent their Spring Break writing up new lesson plans to allow them to interact with students in a live classroom experience, answering questions as they teach and allowing the students to interact with each other as well.
“The goal of this program is to keep the students engaged and reduce their sense of isolation during the remaining months of the school year,” said Brenda Scholl, Principal of River Islands Technology Academy. Because the school was built as a technology-based and interconnected campus, all students receive a digital device at the beginning of the school year, and homes in the area are already online. “Being a step ahead in the technology area was a huge plus,” she said. “We were able to regroup and open up for instruction a week after we were notified about the shutdowns.”
Students arrive for class from their home kitchens or spare bedrooms punctually at 9. The teachers present new material, interact with their students and answer questions for an hour before taking a break for half an hour. Then the students return to the classroom and continue on for another uninterrupted hour of study before the live part of their day is complete. The virtual classroom presentations are all videotaped for students who miss a lesson, and review assignments are assigned online for individual use. The program has been well-received, and attendance averages 95%.
Susan Dell’Osso, president of the school board, was online the first morning, experiencing the interaction in several of the classrooms. “I kept smiling as I watched the kids, fully engaged, asking questions and enjoying the camaraderie of the classroom experience. These kids are going to have a good school year, and a great academic experience.”