Bay Area parents, teachers, students weigh in on distance learning challenges since start of school

Lyanne Melendez Image
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Parents, teachers weigh in on distance learning struggles
It's been more than a month since public school districts in the Bay Area opted to return to online classes and educators and parents are starting to recognize the negative consequences of distance learning.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been more than a month since public school districts in the Bay Area opted to return to online classes and educators and parents are starting to recognize the negative consequences of virtual learning.

"I am of the point of view that the public health interest of these children is served by getting these schools open," stated CDC Director, Robert Redfield.

"There is no substitute for being in school like with your students," added Mark Sanchez, a teacher who serves on the school board in San Francisco.


While everyone acknowledges that in-person learning is best for students, many feel the virus and its potential for spreading have left us helpless, with no other option but to continue with remote learning.

"It's going ok, but I miss my friends for real life," said 4-year-old Marion, sitting on her mother's lap who wears two hats, mom and teacher.

A lot of the burden of teaching online has been placed on parents to make sure that what was happening in school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. before COVID-19 is now happening in their homes.

"The dynamics has changed to where I'm the big bad person who is forcing them to do all this work," said Reginald Mosley an Oakland parent works from home to be able to supervise his three children.

"There needs to be an adult or someone responsible with the children in the home or whenever they are going to be studying and for working parents, especially for a single parent, that's rough," he added.

RELATED: Some experts, parents say benefits of in-person learning outweigh COVID-19 risk

Teachers like Heidi Seretan had no choice but to adjust to working remotely. While a few have transitioned smoothly to online learning, every single one of them will tell you that the process has been exhausting.

"Being on Zoom three hours a day is equivalent to feeling like you are seven to eight hours in the classroom and that's not even including the million hours of emails that we have to do and coordinating and collaborating," explained Seretan.

She and her husband decided to temporarily move into her father's home in Oregon to get some needed support.

"We've tried to teach in the same room together while she's learning and it doesn't work so that was one of the reasons, living in an 800 square foot apartment in San Francisco with three people all on computers at the same time was really challenging," said Seretan.

VIDEO: Bay Area teachers share their concerns, expectations about the upcoming school year

Bay Area teachers share their thoughts about teaching from home, connecting with students and eventually having to return to the classroom.

Some districts have been criticized for not spending more time and resources training teachers on how to better navigate instruction online.

But the reality is that back in June the pressure and the focus coming from the Department of Education in Washington was on reopening schools in the Fall, not on training teachers.

"In California, we were not set up for digital learning and so now we are pushing, we have to move forward, said California's Superintendent of Schools, Tony Thurmond.

Currently, the city of San Francisco has 45 community learning hubs to support the most vulnerable students from kindergarten through sixth to keep them on track with online learning.

And the school district there is now offering free consultation services to a few families who are struggling with distance learning.

RELATED: Elementary school kids not shy about sharing their thoughts on distance learning

Shoestrings is a program that is providing structure by giving families sometimes as simple as visual schedules.

"The child has a visual schedule to know when you wake up and have breakfast or you get dressed and now you can check the schedule to see that not it's time to get on the computer and have schools with your teacher and your friends," explained Crystal Hawkins of Shoestrings Children's Center.

Many parents and teachers say they can't wait for students to get back to the classroom for in-person learning if it's safe. What will it take? What's the process?

In San Francisco, the Department of Public Health sends out a team of four to five inspectors to assess each school that is requesting a waiver. So far only private schools have asked to reopen.

WATCH: Despite 'widespread' coronavirus transmission, some Marin County schools reopen for in-person instruction

BACK TO SCHOOL: 'We know that it's not quite the same': More than a dozen Marin County schools are back in the classroom despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And they are already learning lessons about teaching in a COVID-19 world.

Desks are measured to make sure they are six feet apart.

The principal has to answer a series of safety questions from the proper ventilation in each classroom to the amount of personal protection equipment at the school.

San Francisco Unified with 114 schools, have yet to fill out an application to reopen for in-person instruction. It's unlikely students there will return to classrooms before January.

Check out more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area.