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School Closure Stress: Sunnyside families adjust to new normal

Superintendent addresses remote learning concerns
Posted at 11:39 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 11:54:53-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — It's an unprecedented time in education with schools shut down across the state.

In the Sunnyside district, administrators, teachers, parents and students have all been adjusting to remote learning -- the new normal for now.

"Okay -- I'm a little stressed out," said Maria Fregoso.

Maria has a full-time job, but is able to work from home to help her own kids, who are essential workers and single parents.

When she first heard about the school closures, she thought, "That's not going to happen. That can't happen. That's never happened."

But it did. And Maria thrust herself into the new duty of helping her 5 grandchildren navigate these new remote waters.

Her grandson, Jayden, lists the subjects he's tackling in 3rd grade, "Writing, reading, sciences and math."

Maria primarily checks their work and answers questions if she can. "I'm constantly asking -- did you go online. Did you see if you have anything else because I'm also prompt on my email for their work," she said.

She says she sometimes feels she's falling short in her new responsibility of home educator.

That's the last thing Superintendent Steve Holmes wants. "I don't want families to feel the burden lies on them. I already think they have so much on their plate to take of."

The onus, he says, lies on educators using the remote system now in place, which has turned the learning landscape upside down.

"I find it to be the most horrible situation to be in for our students, quite frankly. I think we're better prepared than most because of the proliferation of devices and technology we have available, but access to technology is not enough in a high poverty district," said Holmes.

In person connections in classrooms is critical, he says. So he's made it his mission to have staff stay as connected to students -- to families -- as possible.

"I believe they're doing the best job they can. My grandkids are not only getting one message in the morning, they are getting it throughout the day. I'm seeing messages come in at midnight -- all hours. They have a literally 24/7 job now," said Maria.

Still, Holmes says, a big stressor right now is the likelihood of a long-lasting effect on student learning.

"That's our biggest fear right now. It's logical to think that there will be set-backs academically. We see it in the summer alone when students have that academic gap. Now we're looking at summer plus the two months we've been off. We're very concerned about how we're going to catch student's up," he said.

While the district does its job, Maria is seeing a profound benefit of this system restructure at home. "It has brought our family so much closer. Out of a bad situation -- something good comes," she said.

Holmes says the district is considering holding catch-up opportunities for targeted students in June and July -- hopefully using stimulus funds coming from state. And he'll front-load curriculum at the start of next school year.