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Santa Clara Launches Distance Learning District-Wide

Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) has launched the second wave of its distance learning and district Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp could not be happier.

“It’s going great,” said Dr. Kemp. “I went to see five classes this morning and it was great because I saw the whole spectrum, from math to history to elementary classes launching to high school chemistry.”

The district’s elementary school students started classes on Monday, a little less than a week after the high school and middle school students started their distance learning. So far, things are going well and because this is a new concept for everyone, teachers and students are learning as they go.

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“One of our [elementary school] teachers was talking about the expectations for the distance learning. She said, ‘I want you to sit up straight and make sure that you’re dressed and ready for school because this is school.’ She had a whole routine,” said Dr. Kemp. “I was in a math class and it was funny, the teacher really kept her composure, the students were giving her tips on how she needed to rearrange her camera so they could see what she had written down.”

The program continues to evolve. Students are off on Fridays so that teachers can attend staff development days to talk about what’s worked and what needs improvement. Some changes have already been made. Over the weekend, the district added some functionality to the Google Classroom so that teachers could see all of their students on their screen at once. The old Google Classroom only allowed teachers to see four students at a time.

As for teachers, they’re doing what they can to make class interesting. Dr. Kemp says she dropped in on one class where the chemistry teacher conducted an experiment for the class right from his home.

“I’m so proud of our teachers. I’m in awe of their transition to this new platform and how they’re working together and collaborating and really trying something different,” said Dr. Kemp. “I am so grateful to them for their shift and their flexibility. It just goes to show the dedication of the teachers in Santa Clara Unified is unbelievable. It is bar none and I’m really proud of them and our community should be happy about them as well.”

During the first two days of distance learning, about 79 percent of students attended class. Dr. Kemp says the district is reaching out to the students who did not attend classes to find out why. If the issue is internet access, the district recently acquired hotspots and will distribute them to some households.

“This week is going to be the week that we’re really tackling students that are not yet engaged in the classes,” said Dr. Kemp. “The other thing we’re working on is making a determination of what we’re going to do about grading for high school students.”

When it comes to grading, Dr. Kemp says she will have answers soon. The district is waiting to see what the guidance from the UC and CSU systems is before making a final decision.

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