As school districts adjust to the new reality of educating students remotely, parents and members of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees have raised questions about how the district’s plan for virtual learning is being implemented.
At a March 30 board meeting, held via Zoom, some parents wanted to know why online learning wasn’t being ramped up more quickly.
“It’s hard to understand why we are in our third week since our kids were sent home and still no new material,” said Los Altos resident Nancy Bremeau. “As far as review material, the work has been entirely underwhelming.”
Bremeau said her son had received little work in his classes, and she felt communication was “weak at best.”
The district is implementing distance learning in phases. Schools closed starting March 16 and at-home learning began a week later on March 23. During the first phase, which ran through Friday, the focus was meant to be on reviewing previous content and providing students feedback. Administrators also worked to distribute Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to students who lacked technology at home.
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The district is on spring break this week and phase two is set to commence when school starts back up on Monday. During the second phase, the district intends to focus on new content, more in-depth projects and preparation for Advanced Placement exams. By 10 a.m. Monday, teachers are expected to release a slate of assignments for the week. Teachers also
will schedule virtual office hours.
At last week’s meeting, Superintendent Nellie Meyer said she had received feedback that some parents, students and teachers wanted to move more quickly.
“What we’re hearing is that this has been very hard on everyone and that they’re interested in getting back to that face-to-face interaction on Zoom and being in a class again,” Meyer said.
She added that even though last week had been planned to be part of phase one, teachers were moving with increasing speed to expand remote instruction.
Hunger for structure
Trustees similarly said they’d been receiving questions from families about the implementation of online learning. Trustee Phil Faillace said he’d gotten a lot of emails and phone calls. Although most were sympathetic to the challenge the district was facing, he said he thinks there’s “a real hunger for more structure and more work for students.”
Parent Stephanie Dauer said Faillace’s words resonated, and that her son has had little work to do since being at home.
“The kids do hunger for more structure and more work,” Dauer said. “There is a desperate, desperate need to get up to full speed as quick as possible.”
In addition to a son at Los Altos High School, Dauer has a daughter at Egan Junior High. In comparing her children’s experiences, she said her daughter had remote assignments to do almost immediately and had been diligently working, while her son had little to do.
One parent at the meeting raised concerns about the potential pressure being put on students during a global pandemic. Patricia Hershfeldt said she worried about what high-pressure academics could do to the mental wellness of students and teachers.
Faillace said he didn’t understand the rationale for the expectations in the first phase of distance learning. He questioned why teachers were supposed to post no more than four days a week and assign a weekly total of 100 minutes of work per course, which he said “seems like a woefully inadequate amount.”
The superintendent said the four-day restriction was intended to ensure students weren’t initially overwhelmed, but didn’t mean the district was moving to a four-day week. As for the target of 100 minutes, that was done in the interests of ensuring a working system was in place and that students were able to receive instruction, Meyer said.
Ultimately, Faillace said he believed the district should move rapidly to ramp up its remote instruction.
“I think right now the urgency is to get up to full speed as quickly as possible,” he said. “The community has been very understanding and forgiving until now, but if April 13 rolls around, one full month after we closed schools, and we’re still stumbling along, they’re going to start getting upset.”
Read more: Local schools during the pandemic
• Before the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions would have prevented schools from working with private health services. Recently relaxed regulations by the county have allowed for school partnerships. Learn more about student mental health during the age of tele-education, and the resources rallied to help students in distress.
• Local students have been making grocery runs for neighbors in need, and if you need help they can pick up supplies for you, too.