OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — With widespread school closures confirmed through the rest of the year, teachers and administrators across the Oakland Unified School District are facing new challenges that come with virtual teaching and learning.
All school districts across six Bay Area counties announced Tuesday that students will not be going back to their classrooms for the rest of the academic year. All public schools in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties are moving to virtual learning.
“This has been such an unprecedented time,” sais Ena Dallas, a drama and art teacher at Oakland Technical High School.
Dallas says she’s doing everything she can to engage with students, but she admits it’s been difficult.
“I teach such a diverse array of brilliant students who have various access to technology in the home,” says Dallas. It’s a challenge teachers and administrators face across OUSD.
“A lot of our families don’t have technology at home. They don’t have a computer, they don’t have internet access, and that makes it very difficult to do a lot of the instruction that we want to do, that our students deserve,” says John Sasaki, spokesperson for the Oakland Unified School District.
Every Monday and Thursday, between 12,000 to 13,000 families come pick up school lunches. The district hopes it’s a perfect time to distribute donated Chromebook laptops, WiFi hotspots, and even old fashioned packets of paper with homework and lesson plans.
“I think that it’s going to be a great bridge for us, because we already know that the families are coming out,” said Sasaki.
It’s an issue that’s also playing out in other districts across the Bay Area, like Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto.
“It’s a really marked equity issue and distance learning is really highlighting that digital divide that already existed, but not have been so present in everyone’s mind,” said Lara Burenin, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Ravenswood City School District.
School officials are also ensuring students get internet access, plus a laptop for older students or a tablet for the younger ones.
“That way families and students to log in frequently and see what teachers are assigning, to view lessons that the teachers have recorded,” said Burenin.
Even the arts are moving online. Students at Oakland Tech are preparing for a play that might never make it to the stage.
“They get together on a Zoom call and they rehearse their scene,” said Dallas. She admits technology still has its challenges. “Rehearsing choral parts on Zoom is not as easy as it looks, I can tell you that.”