Oakland High School students, parents struggle with online classes, crowded study areas at home as new school year starts

"It's very hard right now," said one parent.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's the first day of school at McClymonds High School in Oakland, and even though principal Jeffrey Taylor is walking the hallways, there is something very important that is missing.

"To me, it just doesn't feel like school has started because you don't have students coming up to you asking how to find their classes. Or, they don't know how to get in their locker. So, it's a little unusual," said Taylor.

McClymonds, like all schools in the Oakland Unified School District is beginning the school year with distance learning because of the growing spread of COVID-19 in California.

The return to school is highly unusual this year. Unlike the previous school year when classes went online in March and teachers had nine months to build relationships with their students, teachers and students must now navigate the new school year without meeting each other and, in some cases, without being able to see each other on Zoom.

Geometry teacher Floresa Vaughn taught from her classroom the first day. She sat at her desk with her laptop open and rows of empty desks in front of her.

All she could see on her laptop was the names of her students since the district does not require kids to turn on their cameras for privacy issues.

She spent the first day introducing herself and her infectious laughter to students trying to get students to talk to each other in smaller chat rooms was more difficult.

"This is what we would be doing on the first day of school," she told her students. "I don't want you guys to watch this screen, it is so boring."

The return to school was anything but uneventful for 11th grader Deandrea Campbell. She just moved to Oakland from Stockton with her mom and brother.

For now, they are sharing a home. Because of the limited space, Campbell and her brother both sit at the kitchen table for their online classes.

"We're across from each other on the table and it's loud because my teacher is talking, his teacher is talking, and we can't hear the teachers talking," said Campbell.

Her mother is working part-time this week to help them navigate their new classes.

"I'm literally going from one end of the table to the other so I understand what is going on, so that I can assist them when they have questions. It's very hard right now," said Carlin Stewart.

ABC7 News followed McClymonds High School for the first week of school. To see an expanded story that includes a teacher working from home next to her son taking his own Zoom class, and a larger look at the West Oakland community, go to Mack: A High School Story on the ABC7 News App, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV.

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