San Bernardino Unified School District teachers have transitioned from in-person teaching into an online setting to practice social distancing, as many other school districts have. Program facilitator Krista Bjur of Bob Holcomb Elementary School shared her experiences so far during this pandemic. Bjur has been working for 30 years and this is one of the biggest challenges for her since starting her career.
Q: What were the procedures that had to follow when the school closed due to COVID-19?
A: The first day we did not know ahead of time about the decision of the board members to close the schools. We found out during their board meeting on March 19 and by the time the decision was finally made, the student were out of school. Teachers were not notified until end of the day and told not to return. There were no procedures. First week, the district sent out a letter saying we will not be coming back after spring break. They started to put procedures in place so teachers were able to come back to school for one day to collect their curriculum for distance learning. During the two weeks, the department of elementary instruction at the district level started making plans and procedures and we are now working from home. Every teacher is training on how to set up Google Classroom and go completely digital. We were also taught how to use the Google Hangout platform, which is like a Zoom meeting, and we gave out computer devices with free Wi-Fi at the schools.
Q: How would you describe the district handling the crisis or transition during first weeks of schools closing?
A: Looking back, I wish they would have told us a couple of hours sooner, but the board meeting was in the afternoon that day. I am glad that our teachers from each grade level had a meeting with their grade and were working together to plan, which was nice and helpful.
Q: What did you have to do as a program facilitator?
A: First, I responded to emails and online questions from teachers if they had problems with the digital platform. Second, I contacted parents about digital learning and helped them get connected with devices and programs. Third, I attended Zoom meetings and calls while training for Google Classroom in case teachers have problems and need help.
Q: What new procedures are you using now due to pandemic?
A: We are getting digital learning started with Google Classroom, passing out devices to every student, and make sure that everyone is staying connected.
Q: What is the readiness plan if the school closes due to a future pandemic or outbreak?
A: We are delivering and structuring mobile online learning. In many ways, it teachers are learning how to teach in a different way now. I am hopeful it can change teachers’ minds, who don’t like technology or online learning, to feel confident and comfortable and be able to use these programs. I am curious about how long it will last and once teachers go back to the classroom, are they going to still use these tools of online learning or go back to their old ways of teaching? We will just have to wait and see.
Q: Is the district being proactive with newsletters or updates about COVID-19?
A: Once a week we get some information on updates, but we mostly get more information from our school principal because all principals from every school does a district online meeting every week. Our principal will announce updates or news to the staff, and I am very thankful we have a great principal who is very good at communicating any news or current events.
Q: How are students able to do learning from home? What happens if families can’t afford laptops or other essentials like Wi-Fi?
A: Every student will get an electronic device. Students in grades three to six will be getting laptops or chrome books and kindergarten to second grade will have an iPad. In addition, every child will be getting headphones as well. The district will provide new laptops and iPads for the upcoming year for all schools.
Q: If students struggle with the online homework, how can they ask for help?
A: If a parent or sibling is home they can help with their learning. If not, the teachers will set up video office hours twice or three times a week to help students if they need extra help.
Q: Since the schools are closed for the remaining of the year what is going to happen with promotions or report cards?
A: State policy for elementary level is if a child is at grade level from the last report card in February, they will not get a low grade. However, if a child is below grade level, the student will have to do some work and make some effort, but to answer your question, we won’t retain any student due to the pandemic.
Q: Is communicating with parents and students being effectively?
A: We provided a private Gmail address for each student so they can communicate with their teachers and we also have an app called Class Dojo, another source so parents and students can get updates from teachers. Class Dojo is a more kid-friendly way to stay connected.
Q: How is working from home affecting your ability to properly do your job?
A: After the first week of being off, I was watching the news every hour, feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Once I can go back to work, I will try to manage my time wisely online for questions or concerns from teachers, parents or staff. I’m usually on the computer for about five to six hours every day, except on weekends. Right now, I am doing okay and keeping myself busy by walking my dog or baking. Overall, I am taking one day at a time and I love my job.