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No child left behind: Beginners get computers for distance learning, too

Beginners get computers

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of schools last March and MUSD turned to distance learning via computers, not every kid got an electronic device. It was determined that the suddenness of such a drastic change would be too much for the kindergarten/first grade students, so those kids got their lessons in packets, which were completed with pencils pens, and crayons, at home. A few people complained, including Amanda Wade, vice president of the Madera teachers’ union. They wanted the youngest kids to have computers, too.

Whether or not these demurrers had anything to do with it, the situation has changed. Students in TK (younger kindergarteners), K, 1st, and 2nd grades have joined all other students in attending virtual classrooms via computers, and just as it has done in grades 3-12, Madera Unified is making every effort to see that no one is left in the dark.

The district and the teachers got together two days before school started last week and figured out a way to bring its youngest scholars up to speed. First, they bought some Plexiglas shields — one for every TK, K, 1st, and 2nd grade teacher in the district, and each school prepared for outdoor indoctrination sessions for these younger students and their parents. On August 17 and 18, tables were set up on the school lawns with lots of distance in between them, and from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., every child and his or her parent were scheduled for a personal session with their teacher. When they arrived for their meeting, they found their teachers waiting at their individual tables with Chromebook computers, a box of supplies, and assignments for the first week.

In a relatively short time, much of the mystery of schoolwork on computers was solved. Parents and students were shown how the machines worked in the context of the assignments the students would be doing.

The elementary indoctrination at Eastin Arcola School was typical of efforts made throughout the district to make sure no one was left behind in dealing with distance learning, and teachers had high praise for the face-to-face meetings, even if they were conducted behind Plexiglas.

Shannon Lancaster, 1st grade teacher at Eastin-Arcola Elementary told The Tribune that “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet with each of our parents and students prior to the first day of school! Our young students have never used a Chromebook before, so being able to teach them the basics of how to handle the device, login, and access their digital curriculum was super important. Many of our families don’t have access to high speed internet, but we were able to distribute much needed hot spots. I really feel like meeting our families face-to-face helped ease some of their fear and apprehension. It was an awesome way to begin this challenging year ahead!”

Eric Wilson, 2nd grade teacher at Eastin Arcola, exuded enthusiasm as he related his experiences of meeting his students and introducing them to their new “teacher’s aide.”

a”That first week, as classes started,a” Wilson said, “I was excited to be able to meet with each of my students and their parents to go over how to use the Chromebook and make sure they had everything they needed as far as school-related materials. Necessarily, we sat outside, sheltered from the heat under the shade of eazy-ups and the breeze of electric fans.”

“It’s always nice to be able to meet with parents early in the school year and get a sense of their concerns. This year it was especially important because, unfortunately, we may not be able to meet with them in person again any time soon. That week, parents demonstrated their perseverance by braving the 100 plus degree weather to keep their appointments. Parents showed their support while the students shared their enthusiasm. Nothing can replace being able to see our students for the first time in-person wearing their excited smiles.”

“Recognizing the challenges ahead of us,” Wilson maintained, “this was a brief optimistic meeting with a determination to make the most out of what we had to work with. I recognize that it will take a lot of effort on the parents’ part to help make distance learning successful, and if braving the heat is an indicator of their willingness, then we’re off to a good start.”

Second graders were targeted for the Chromebook indoctrination this year because last spring, as 1st graders, they did not participate in distance learning using electronic devices.

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