Distance Learning Brings Classrooms Home
August 28, 2020 - Livermore, CA - The bulletin boards are decorated, the math manipulatives are at her fingertips, and the markers and whiteboards are fresh and ready, as Mrs. Shortridge at Smith Elementary School welcomes herfirst grade students to their new year of learning. She is used to crouching to see her students at eye level; this year,she crouches at her laptop, a portal that connects each of her students to one another and to their classroom. Students had a chance to meet their teachers in person when they came to their schools for curbside pick-up of classroom materials. But the real connections are developing during the daily online sessions over Google Meet or WebEx. “Although this year has started like none other, the importance of building connections with students and families is vital to a successful distance learning program. Seeing their faces daily on the screen and teaching from my classroom has helped keep learning alive in first grade,” said Shortridge.
Throughout the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD), distance learning launched this week as 13,509 students logged in to learn. Students have set up their own learning stations at home. The LVJUSD IT Department has provided Chromebooks and hotspots to students so they could be connected. Teachers have participated in professional development that supported the transition to fully distance learning. “Our teachers are collaborating more than ever,” said Livermore High School (LHS) Principal Helen Gladden, describing the district-wide teamwork that has prepared teachers to hone their professional tools to meet the needs of education during a pandemic. Joe Meunier, Principal at Emma C. Smith Elementary, added, “We see courage and hard work daily aswe have forged into this school year. Students and families are responding with positivity to this challenging time in 2020.”
All courses and subject areas continue to be taught throughout the District, at all grade levels. High school students are still able to participate in courses offered through the Tri-Valley Regional Occupational Program (ROP). “Our commitment to academic excellence does not change during distance learning,” said Mike Biondi, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services. “We continue to implement our Framework for Success that provides behavioral and social emotional learning that, together, support the academic success of our students.”
LHS Senior Sarah Ansell shared her positive outlook after the first day of her online AP Calculus class with Mrs. Johnston. “It took mathematicians a long time to understand the mystery of the slope of the tangent line and develop new ways to quantify our world with Calculus. I have the amazing privilege to get to learn all of this knowledge, with an enthusiastic teacher, in only a year! I am so very thankful for all the work the School Board, the superintendent, our school administration and all the people behind the scenes did so that I can go to school this year and learn Calculus - in a pandemic - just like Isaac Newton did,” said Ansell.
Support services throughout LVJUSD are already in place to care for students’ needs while learning during the pandemic. Meals are being served daily at eight school sites, with students who qualify being able to receive free or reduced price breakfasts and lunches. Counselors, psychologists, nurses, and Child Welfare & Attendance specialists are meeting with staff and students to support mental health, wellness, and active participation in learning. Parents and guardians are also being supported through Livermore Learns, LVJUSD’s parent engagement and education program.
Superintendent Kelly Bowers launched the year with her annual kickoff, in a new way this year through a video message. She praised the 1,450 LVJUSD staff members for their continued focus on students. “As we rise to the challenges of teaching and learning in the midst of a pandemic, we realize that our circumstances have changed, but our mission has never changed. We share an unwavering commitment to our students and our community that our students will graduate with the skills needed to contribute and thrive in a changing world.”