The August “back to school” season is very different this year as all Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) schools prepare to start the school year with distance learning. According to the California Department of Education, distance learning is instruction “in which the student and instructor are in different locations.”
CUSD is reassuring families that fall 2020 distance learning will be rigorous and meaningful. Given San Diego county’s continued place on the state watchlist for coronavirus cases, distance learning is the expectation for Coronado schools for the near future. As a result, back to school planning has shifted from shopping for new clothes and backpacks to making sure students have all the equipment and technology they will need to succeed.
Distance learning requires students to have regular and reliable computer and internet access. Previously, families might have shared computers but now each student will need computer access daily making it difficult for families to share. Some local families have purchased computers specifically for distance learning.
CHS student Maddie Flanagan has two younger siblings and said, “My family got computers and desk spaces for all of us, so we are grateful to have our own spaces where we can do our school peacefully.” The least expensive computer chrome books retail around $200 while the popular Apple computers cost over $1,000 suggesting there could be significant financial costs for families. However, the Coronado Unified School District has committed to providing students with technology they need for school. Families can submit an online request to borrow a CUSD chrome book for the school year.
The proposed distance learning format also requires daily live interactions which means students should have microphones and cameras on their computers so the class can see and talk to each other. Not all computers have built-in cameras and microphones so families may need to purchase these additional items to connect to student computers. For families with multiple school children the simultaneous class conversations could become noisy!
During Spring distance learning, Coronado students and siblings Colin Thoms and Anna Thoms completed their work next to each other at the family dining room table. However, the fall daily interactions will make it more difficult for students to work near each other. Students can use headphones to limit the noise in their homes but there will still be sound when students are speaking to their class. Colin’s mother shared that he will, “Do a mix. When he has class zooms, he will work at his desk in his room. At other times when he just needs to do independent work, he will work in the dining room.”
Some parents are also worried about the health impact of students spending many hours every day staring at a computer screen. The American Optometric Association recommends students look away from the screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and take a 15 minute break after two hours of screen time. Students can also minimize eye strain by making sure there is enough light and increasing the font size on the screen. CUSD parent Missy Robertson chose to get monitors for her children so they have the benefit of looking at a larger screen.
One popular back-to-school tradition is taking pictures of students dressed for the first day of school and standing by the front door. While much of back-to-school has changed this year, families can keep this picture tradition alive even if students won’t be walking through the door to go to school.