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Learning without classes

Madera Unified School District faces the COVID-19 crisis

On March 13, Madera Unified School District announced it was closing all of its schools until April 14, due to the COVID-19 crisis. A few days later it extended that temporary shutdown to May 1. On April 7, trustees voted to keep the schools closed for the remainder of the school year, in accordance with a statewide mandate from Sacramento.

The school shutdown left the district facing what many thought would be an insurmountable task. How were students to be educated if they couldn’t go to school? How could they learn if the school bell didn’t ring for them each morning? How could they possibly advance academically without the teacher in the room to guide them?

As these questions were being asked, Madera Unified was busy finding the answers. On its face, the response was simple. The kids would do their lessons at home, using computers and the Internet. This, of course, raised a whole new set of questions. Who would do the teaching? What would be taught? What about grades? What about graduation? What about kids who don’t have access to the Internet? What about kids who don’t have computers?

Faced with the crisis that raised all of these questions and more, Madera Unified’s administrators, teachers, instructional technology technicians, administrative assistants, secretaries, and other classified employees came together to “hold the kids harmless.”

Joined by hundreds of volunteers, and teachers, the district staff determined to do all they could to mitigate the disruption to each child’s education — to minimize the harm that the children might endure for something over which they had no control.

The district put together a plan for what is being called “distance learning,” and The Tribune reviewed the document. It found that closing the schools put Madera Unified on a mission unparalleled in the history of local education. With complete abandon, school employees at every level closed ranks to meet the challenge of educating Madera’s youth with no classrooms or playgrounds. It is a story of selflessness and commitment that will be told in two parts, with the first part in Saturday’s edition and the second part in next Wednesday’s issue.

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