Corona-Norco Unified School District (CNUSD) is two weeks into distance learning and there are still many unknowns and questions from parents and school officials alike.
Sam Buenrostro, Ed.D., Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Support, has been with CNUSD for over 21 years and has yet to deal with the enormous task of providing the tools and support for distance learning for over 53,000 students, with about half being from underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The logistics of figuring out how to supply families with computers, homework packets, meals and technical support for both teachers and parents has been an overwhelming mission for any school district.
“An ‘A’ for effort. We know distance learning is a lot of experimentation. A lot of trial and error,” said Dr. Buenrostro.
Dr. Buenrostro recognizes that the district has had a huge difficulty in effectively distributing electronic devices to families.
Parent to a CNUSD kindergartener, Karen Johnson, said, “CNUSD has done a great job in providing updated information regarding COVID-19, but they are still lacking in being able to distribute electronic devices to many of their students. I was given a survey to fill out on April 13 and we are now two weeks in. Thankfully his teacher has done a great job in providing homework packets and Zoom class meetings.”
For many parents, this new way of learning from home has been a challenge in many ways.
Local parent Viviana Castro said, “In addition to keeping my children focused on their school work, I find it difficult to keep up with homework because I have three children and one device.”
Many families with multiple children are having issues with only one electronic device in the home and must figure out how to distribute the time effectively.
For the Castro family, there are a lot of late nights to allow each child to catch up on school assignments. Castro expressed how, because she is an essential worker, it is more challenging since she can not completely focus on her children’s education.
“I do not have the luxury to shelter in place on the daily,” says Castro.
Another major factor is equity and access and that the gap more than likely will continue to widen between groups who have been traditionally marginalized: foster youth, English learners and low socio-economic students.
Marginalized students will face greater obstacles with being able to access the internet and whatever other resources will be needed to continue their education. In addition to these barriers, there are parents who are not as tech-savvy. Something as simple as sending a text or maybe even sending out an email can be a challenging task for parents who don’t rely on technology on a daily basis.
One resource that CNUSD is providing families with is the use of the Parent Center to help parents navigate through their technological questions and, if need be, in their native language. The Parent Center distributes backpacks and school supplies to students in need. Another basic need for many students is food, and the district is still providing breakfast and lunches through their feeding program.
Districts also face the challenge with special needs students who are assisted by paraeducators and how to continue that one-on-one communication.
California School Employee Association (CSEA) President for CNUSD, Lorena Lopez, stated that through Gov. Newsom’s announcement with the state’s partnership with Google in providing mobile hotspots and Chromebooks in rural areas to facilitate distance learning, “CSEA hopes that that branches out throughout the state to implement a program to bring in para educators to work closer with their students.”
There are many questions looming in the minds of educators, parents and students alike: What will school look like in the fall of 2020? Will students return to class? A face mask or no face mask? Full days or half days? And the list of questions goes on and on.
Although there is still a lot of uncertainty moving forward in education in the near future, Dr. Buenrostro remains positive. He will continue to project online/distance learning through the fall.