For The Madera Tribune
Eastin-Arcola TK teacher Maria Alvarado meets with one of her students and a parent to give them a Chromebook, supply box, and directions for completing assignments in their virtual classroom. Teachers throughout Madera did the same thing on Aug. 17 and 18. The Plexiglas separating them is barely discernible in the picture.
After Madera Unified staff spent this summer planning and flawlessly implementing distance learning via computers for the 2020-2021 school year, on Wednesday, somewhere in Northern Madera County, a fiber line was cut at a construction project. Immediately the school district lost its connection with the Internet.
This could have sent Madera’s virtual classrooms into a tailspin had it not been for a little luck and some quick thinking.
Fortunately, the accident occurred on Wednesday, which is an “asynchronous” school day throughout the district (a day in which all classes are doing independent assignments while teachers work with individuals or small groups). When the Internet went down, students continued to do their independent work while the administration and the teachers’ union made a decision on the teachers. It was determined to give teachers the option of working at school preparing lessons or working at home, where they had internet connection and could work one-on-one with students, since they all had internet connectivity at home. That took care of Wednesday; now what to do about Thursday?
At the time, with no information as to when the problem would be fixed, the district decided to allow the teachers to work at home on Thursday.
When contacted by The Tribune Thursday morning, the district’s Technology Department said the problem has been fixed, and the district now has full Internet service again.
Since the decision to allow the teachers to work from home on Thursday had already been made, that determination was allowed to remain. The crisis, however, is past, and distance learning in virtual classrooms via the Internet will now return to normal.
Superintendent Todd Lile acknowledged to The Tribune that “the outage added to an already existing sense of anxiety we know teachers, students, and parents feel,” and that the district fully understands the necessity of maintaining “stable, day-to-day teaching and learning for the good of everyone.”
The optimism that has characterized Madera’s educators this new school year doesn’t seem to have been diminished by this accidental blip on the radar screen.