SAN PABLO (KPIX 5) — With the start of the fall school year, teachers across the Bay Area are taking different approaches to distance learning.

In San Pablo, while the West Contra Costa Unified School District determines the curriculum, each school in the district has a certain amount of leeway to implement the curriculum.

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Teachers have been preparing to roll out their remote learning lesson plans both from their home or from their empty classrooms at school.

“This is my classroom, come on in,” said Bayview Elementary School teacher Alex Cowan. This year will look very different for Miss Cowan, as her students call her. Not only will her kindergarten class be done through distance learning, but it’ll also be done out of her house.

She converted a bedroom into a classroom where she’ll be teaching 20 five-year-olds how to read and write using a combination of videos, live lessons and digital assignments.

“I share my screen, and they’ll get to see my classroom so I click on the links, said Cowan. “But they can still see my face, and also the screen.”

Bayview Elementary, where she teaches, is a Title 1 school with 97% of her class on free or reduced lunch, so accessibility will be a challenge. But once they’re online, she says, the digital element will work to their advantage.

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“There is going to be a lot more small group pulling,” said Cowan. “More one-on-one meeting, so learning will be a lot more personalized to the kids.”

In her virtual classroom, there’s a story corner, a real – and digital – library, a whiteboard, and decorations. Cowan is packing up similar supplies to deliver to her kids.

The year will be a big experiment for everyone that might lead to permanent changes in education, but Cowan says nothing will ever replace the value of kids in a classroom.

“They have such incredible personalities. They’re so unfiltered and hilarious,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to miss.”

That, and the hugs, said Cowan.


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