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Students learning from afar

Richland School District students are getting acclimated to their new reality, which includes raising their hand in class with the click of a button, and only being able to see their friends from a picture on their screen. With the governor's ruling making it necessary for all schools on the watch list to operate virtually, challenges abound but are being handled by a dedicated teaching staff and administration.

Superintendent Rosa Romero, who was recently appointed permanently to the post, said this was not her first choice for starting the school year, but the current curriculum and programs are the next best thing to having in-person classes.

"Nothing can take the place of in-person instruction, but we are doing a wonderful job in giving our kids the best education possible, given this situation," she said.

Sixth-grader Valentina Valencia was logging on to her class on Tuesday morning, awaiting the flag salute, roll call, and then going over the day's assignments. Valentina's mother, Yanira Valencia, said the program is easy to understand and gives the kids a chance to get their work done with plenty of help from the teacher.

Valencia, who is a single mother raising two school-age children, had just come home from working the night shift at a local hospital. She helped her first-grader, Camila, log on to the internet for her class, and made sure Valentina was squared away before going to the other room and helping Camila if needed.

"I usually help Camila get logged on and spend about an hour with her in case she needs some help with the computer. Then my older daughter, who has started virtual classes at Bakersfield College, takes over while I get some sleep," Valencia said.

Valencia is fortunate to have an older child who is available to give her a hand in the process. "I have to be back at work tonight for another shift, so staying up all day would be impossible or very hard on me," she said.

Valentina has a textbook in front of her, reading the work as she goes over the questions asked by teacher Candie Springer, before typing the answers on her laptop. Each assignment is graded by Springer after it is turned in. Valentina can work on her assignments throughout the day, with Springer online and ready to help. There is time for a lunch break, and also time when Springer is online but not engaged with the students, allowing the kids to work on their own, knowing that Springer is just a click away.

Valencia said that through the Classroom Dojo app, the physical education teacher is able to give the kids their assignments for the day and the week. "All we have to do is log onto the app and their assignments are there, with the different exercise routines and programs on there," she said. She added that she also feels better about the experience knowing they are not alone in the program, trying to navigate the work and procedures on their own. They can always count on their teacher who is more than willing to help.

"We are very lucky to have Mrs. Springer for a teacher. She even gave us her phone number so we could call her if we have a question after the school hours are over," said Valencia.

Valentina said she really likes the classes and the programs that they work on online, but that she would rather be going to school in person, able to see her friends. "I like it but it's not the same, she said.

Yanira Valencia said she understands, probably better than most, being in the medical field, that the distance learning is necessary until the children can go back to in-person school safely. "We saw a second spike in cases, right before school was scheduled to start, so I understand the governor's concern and thinking," she said.

Until they can return to school safely, Valencia said she believes her children are still thriving in this challenging time.


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