Redlands schools kick off school year with revamped distance learning program

By Ethic News staff

 As the Redlands Unified School District enters its sixth week of distance-learning for the 2020-21 school year, students, staff, parents and community members are adjusting to a new way of learning and educating.

Redlands East Valley history teacher and AVID advisor Cindy Gardner teaches from home with dual computers. In addition to modifying curriculum for remote learning, Gardner is also creating content for a new course she is teaching at REV, AP World History. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Gardner)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state mandates, the district made the shift to starting the school year with 100% online learning for students and staff alike.

There are new specific schedules for each of the different levels within the district: elementary, middle, and high school.

Elementary students complete the school day by 1:30 pm. Elementary school online meetings scheduled for kindergarten through fifth grade specifically accommodate for extracurricular programs, such as the Coding Club.

Middle schools are operating on a rotating block schedule ending at 2:05 pm. Considerations to accommodate choir, the Associated Student Body, yearbook and sport electives were included.

High schools have a traditional six-period day that ends at 2:12 pm. The district has also added seventh period or support time where students can get help from their teachers after the school day is over.

New resources have also been made available such as information on the “Grab and Go” meal programs for families who may rely on school provided lunches. All of the specifics are outlined on the RUSD website.

Although not being allowed to have students on campus is unlike anything that the majority of teachers have experienced prior to March of 2020, many are working to make the necessary adjustments so that students can still receive a high quality education virtually.

Pamela Holcombe, an English teacher at Redlands East Valley, says “We do the best we can. My word for the year is grace. I need to show it to my students. Distractions are different at home than they are at school.” 

Featured above is history teacher and Redlands Teacher Association representative Brent William’s classroom on the Citrus Valley High School campus, modified with an extra chrome book for distance learning. Many teachers are using two computers to present content and monitor students in zoom or google meet sessions more efficiently. (Photos courtesy of Brent Williams)

Featured above is the teaching space of Citrus Valley High School teacher Danielle Kinder, designed specifically to accommodate teaching from home. Kinder teaches AP European History and finds creative ways to deliver rigorous content through the screen. (Photos courtesy of Danielle Kinder)

Diana Gamez, a Spanish teacher and AVID advisor at REV, shares her interactive bitmoji classroom she created for virtual learning. Bitmojis have become a popular and creative detail that teachers have been using in their lessons for organization and visual engagement. (Photo courtesy of Diana Gamez)

Rhonda Fouch, a physical education teacher and the girls athletic director at REV, says “[distance learning] is challenging, and there’s lots of computer screen time for kids and teachers.” 

Laura Brown, another English teacher at REV, says, “It’s a lot harder. I work so many more hours trying to anticipate what I need to show visually, things I do automatically in person. I need to prepare differently because most students are visual learners.” 

Chad Golob, a math teacher at REV, says “distance-learning is not as effective with the majority of my students . . .I’m pretty much sticking to the way I’ve always taught, as I don’t believe that more technology is necessarily a good thing.” 

Featured above is history teacher and Link Crew advisor, Becky Buyak’s, classroom on the Redlands East Valley High School campus, modified with an extra webcam for distance learning. Provided with the choice, some teachers are opting to work from their classrooms on campus with no students, and connect with their students who are at home. (Photo courtesy of Becky Buyak.)

The students are also working to get accustomed to a totally new way of learning and being taught material. For freshman, distance learning has been their introduction to high school.

“Distance learning is harder than normal school for me because it’s harder for me to focus, and sitting in front of a screen for a long period of time is not easy,” says Gianna Benash, a freshman at REV, “Also, the work being provided is hard to do because the teachers have a hard time explaining the work.”

Riley Simmons, a freshman at REV, says, “As an incoming freshman, a lot is new for me. It seems this year I’m having a lot more work than I used to.”

Issues of ensuring that the mental health of students and staff are accounted for during these stressful times have also come to light.

In regards to mental health, Aidyn Barbosa, a freshman at REV, says “Distance learning has made it worse. I’m not going to lie. I mean, I had bad mental health previously but this just made it a lot worse.” 

Dylan Clark, a freshman at REV, says distance learning has impacted his mental health “a bit, because I’m isolated from everyone. It just gets lonely sometimes.” 

Nevertheless, students are finding new ways to cope with the current situation and keeping themselves occupied from home. 

Riley Simmons, a freshman at REV, says that after school, “depending on the day of the week, I’m doing homework or going to soccer practice.” 

While some are taking the more traditional route in staying motivated and organized with new school workloads, others are taking a more unconventional approach.

 “Bang energy drinks help me stay awake during class,” says Will VanDyke, a sophomore at Citrus Valley High School. 

Ultimately, this school year has brought with it a lot of change and, in return, challenges. The members of RUSD continue to adjust and adapt, using a variety of communication tools to keep students and families updated on changes and announcements as they arise.

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