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Sunnyside Supt. opens up about first week of school during pandemic

Posted at 9:17 PM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 00:52:05-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — It's a situation no one wanted.

COVID-19 has forced teachers, students, and parents into an educational challenge far beyond any scope imaginable.

Sunnyside is just about to end week two of this academic experiment.

Kelvin Harold is a 4th-grade teacher at Summit View Elementary.

He and his colleagues are instructing students from their classrooms but the seats remain empty for now.

KGUN 9 wanted to know of any major challenges after the first week of remote learning.

"Knock on wood nothing yet," Superintendent Steve Holmes said. "Every student received their laptop. Teachers were teaching as of day one."

And the end of that day, 1st-grade teacher Anissa Jimenez and her fellow educators shared the same experience as the students and their parents. A lot of fatigue.

"They're saying wow, this is making for a long day because as you know it's a big difference than in the spring," Holmes said. "Now we have a schedule so you have certain times people log on so I know people were tired after the first few days."

Holmes said he's now working to adjust the amount of time students spend in their virtual classroom. Especially for the youngest ones.

"If it was a lesson that would take 30 minutes in the classroom, we probably need to do more like 10 minutes, take a break and go do another activity and come back," Holmes explained.

That takes more planning.

So PE, Arts, and Music instructors are now giving teachers the chance to adjust.

"I know planning time has come up with our teachers," Holmes said. "It just takes more time to plan in this environment than any environment. You can't just wing it and you just can't do these teachable moments because you've got all these kids staring at you on the screen. And so it's a little bit different. So there's a little bit of anxiety, but I'm hoping over time it settles as people get more comfortable."

That includes students who don't have a good learning environment at home.

Holmes said being comfortable could start with something as simple as a desk.

The district is working to provide that.

"Even if it's a small older desk that they can check out because we really believe that space is essential for a better learning environment," Holmes said.

So what's the focus now going into week three and four?

Fifth-grade teacher Samantha Fernandez, and others, will be working to make sure students stay engaged.

"In other words, so kids signed on they're good for two weeks and they start trickling off the radar and what support systems are we doing to put in place for that," Holmes said.

We reported this week that Sunnyside is also working to locate nearly 1800 students who have not logged into their virtual classrooms.

We'll keep you updated on the search for the missing students.