Return to Learning: How Sacramento teachers are adapting to virtual classes

Return to Learning

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Back to school means back to the living room for Albert Einstein Middle School teacher Julie Del Agua.

“[I’m] still trying to wrap my head around what it’s going to look like,” Del Agua, a technology and broadcast teacher, said.

With Districts across Sacramento County told to stick to virtual learning this fall due to COVID-19, Del Agua is tasked with figuring out how to best serve her students from her home.

Even as a technology teacher well-versed in computers, it’s still difficult.

“It’s not the same, it’s just not,” she explained. “It’s not like a student is struggling and you can put a hand on their back and give them just a little bit of encouragement.”

This hardship is why Sacramento City Unified School District is looking for ways for its 42,000 students to better connect with teachers through the screen.

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar released a new distance learning plan he hopes will correct some of the challenges faced at the end of the last school year.

“The variation in the quality of distance learning was real,” Aguilar said. “In some cases, many of our students didn’t have access to their teachers. In other cases, we have students who never engaged in distance learning.”

The district is working to even the playing field, spending the summer handing out chrome books and helping students access free internet.

This year, they’ll require every school to provide three to four hours of virtual instruction each day depending on the age group.

Roughly half of that will be live, interactive teaching between students and teachers through online resources like Zoom.

The rest will be through pre-recorded and written lessons sent through Google Classrooms.

“It’s important that we create some more uniformity, some more standardization and the ability to assess more regularly,” Aguilar said.

While in spring 2020, distance learning could not negatively impact a student’s GPA, this school year, they will be graded. 

Sacramento City Unified School District’s chief academic officer Christine Baeta said it’s necessary so they know whether these teaching methods are working.

“And being able to provide for parents accurate information on how their children are learning and progressing,” she explained. 

While Del Agua said this return to learning isn’t ideal, she’s determined to make the most of it, to ensure her students are not only connected to the internet but also to each other.

“You really have to think outside the box,” she said. “I thought like every Friday we can do a virtual field trip, just trying to find ways to keep that connection going.”

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