SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento City Unified School District kicked off their first week of distance learning Monday.
After 20 years in the classroom, C.K. McClatchy High School teacher Lori Jablonski is no longer taking chalk to the chalkboard.
“I’ve never expected anything like this,” Jablonski told FOX40.
She’s one of the countless educators shouldering the daunting task of leaning on technology to teach her nearly 200 students — a third of whom do not have a computer.
“They can’t participate in distance learning. I mean, it’s that simple,” explained Jablonski.
On Monday, SCUSD teachers began posting lessons and assignments online for students who have access.
Jablonski said she fears the technology disparity is further widening the opportunity gap.
“We’ve known about the digital divide, obviously, anybody working in public schools know about that. But this just brings it home,” said Jablonski. “There’s no ability to compartmentalize this anymore. The haves and the have nots are just right before us with this crisis.”
District leaders acknowledge the transition to this new learning space has not been easy and said they are committed to smoothing out the road bumps.
“We will have a lot of challenges ahead of us but our position is that those challenges shouldn’t mean that we stop moving forward. And so, in light of that, certainly none of us can predict what will be different after this COVID crisis is over. But we did think that we had to make this choice now in meeting the needs of all of our students and in particular, the needs of our most vulnerable students,” said SCUSD Superintendent Jorge Aguilar.
The school district told FOX40 that it has also already distributed thousands of Chromebooks to families in need and recently unveiled a “hybrid learning” plan where students can communicate by phone and receive textbook assignments.
District officials also said about 27,000 students will have access to either a computer of their own or a district-issued Chromebook, leaving 13,000 students without access. Aguilar pledged to get the thousands of students still without a district-issued Chromebook one soon, yet no date has been promised.
The superintendent said there are thousands of Chromebooks currently on backorder.
As educators work through the challenges, many teachers are providing technical assistance where they can. However, it is something they have been advised against doing in a cease-and-desist letter sent to teachers in early April.
“There was no grace in that letter. That letter was a threat,” said Jablonski.
The district said their more than 40,000 students should instead turn to the district’s tech support department for assistance.
Jablonski and other educators said they will continue being a source of support for students, even if it’s from behind a computer screen.