It is the new reality for Escalon Unified School District students and teachers.
The program of virtual schooling for students was rolled out on Monday, April 6, said District Superintendent Ron Costa.
“It has been absolutely crazy,” he admitted, with efforts to get all students on board kicking into high gear over the last couple of weeks.
“We have dealt with nothing for the past three weeks except COVID-19,” Costa said. “We have transitioned into distance learning starting today (Monday) and teaching are making contact with their students via the internet. There are lessons, assignments being done, all transmitted electronically.”
Devices and connectivity are two issues that have been somewhat problematic, Costa added, but the school district has worked to make sure every student has access to a device, such as a Chromebook, to be in contact with their teacher and that all families can connect. In some cases, he said, local internet providers are offering special rates to assist families in making those home-school connections.
“In many cases, they are offering low cost or even free access to the internet,” Costa explained.
More information about that – and ongoing distance learning and COVID-19 updates – are available on the school district website at www.escalonusd.org.
Costa said teachers have worked hard to make sure student learning continues and that all students will have the chance to complete the school year successfully, even though they are no longer in the classroom.
For those students who cannot connect, Costa said the district will have four mobile WiFi hot spots available.
“We are going to install them in four of our district vans and we are going to develop routes, much like the bus routes, where we will be spending time in front of houses so students can go online and submit their work,” the superintendent said.
For distance learning, he added, the district has instituted a Pass/No Pass system, though at the high school level, students can request to receive a letter grade as opposed to the pass/no pass designation.
“They can’t go back and forth,” Costa stressed, with the high school students opting for the letter grades keeping that option through the end of the year.
He said that UC and CSU schools are going to accept the pass/no pass grading; it will not impact a student’s eligibility for the school.
“At the end of the year, we have a lot of events that happen but with the Shelter in Place and Social Distancing, plus the limited number allowed at gatherings, we have had to suspend all of those events,” Costa said.
That means right now, eighth grade promotion and high school graduation ceremonies are off the table, though officials hope to develop a plan to have them in some form at a later date.
“The leadership team is looking at it,” he said.
Most of the energy in the past few weeks, though, has been on revising the mindset and getting staff and students ready for the new school model of distance learning.
“We’re very lucky, we have a large group of dedicated staff and teachers that have worked get the distance learning in place,” Costa explained.
He also pointed to the successful school lunch distribution, which has served up thousands of meals to kids throughout the district over the past few weeks.
The latest drive-thru lunch pick up saw over 3,600 meals provided – each student received a bag with six days’ worth of school lunches. There will be no meal distribution this week, as April 13 through 17 will be observed as the traditional spring break. The distribution will resume the week of April 20.
The Tuesday night, April 7 school board meeting was held via Zoom in accordance with social distancing and Costa said he is proud of the work that has been accomplished on behalf of the students, as they have transitioned into the remote learning model.
“We’ve closed our campuses but we haven’t closed our schools,” Costa said.