Remote learning started Monday for more than 1 million public school students in Washington state. It's never been done before. And it was put together on a very short timeline.
Parents and educators say the results statewide are mixed — but at least it allows students the opportunity to keep learning as schools remain closed to blunt the statewide outbreak of coronavirus.
“I feel like I’m doing a good job at trying. At least I’m offering them some educational pieces and I’m working on keeping them going," said said Katie Mascio, a mother to three boys in Kent. "I don’t feel like I know anything about how to be a kindergarten teacher.”
For the past two weeks, districts across the state were in charge of creating their own plans to continue learning during the shutdown of schools, which are not expected to reopen until April 27 at the earliest.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal set the remote learning rule and he also may just be the program's harshest critic.
“This is what we have to do right now to keep families engaged and get kids opportunities," Reykdal said. "This is not, the model I would have designed from scratch.”
Among the state's long list of challenges is how to ensure equity. Not all students have computers or access to the internet, and not all districts have the means to provide those families with technology.
In the Olympia School District, officials handed out more than 500 Chromebooks and WiFi cards to families this morning.
At the Seattle Public Schools, computer access a priority for graduating seniors. The district asked counselors to start checking in with students weekly starting as they work to meet requirements for the class of 2020.
But families in some other districts, like the Mascios in the Kent School District, are working from paper packets prepared by the teachers.
Still, Katie Mascio is grateful for the learning opportunity.
“They soak up so much, they learn so much and they remember so much right now that I feel like we want to keep jamming as much info as we can into them and keep it going so that they don’t forget,” she said.
Reykdal said the state is aware of the equity issues.
“We can make progress on equity and that’s why we were really clear to say this is not a full transition of basic ed to online. It just can’t be in most places. It is requiring districts to have some opportunity for kids to learn so that we maintain,” Reykdal said.
Reykdal said remote learning is a stop-gap until the coronoavirus pandemic has passed.
“This is a little bit of Band-Aid until the globe can get over this,” he said.