SB Unified kicks off 2020-21 school year with distance learning
Students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District began their 2020-2021 school year via distance learning on Tuesday.
Per state order, school districts within counties under the state’s COVID-19 watch list must remain off the list for at least 14 days before applying to begin the transition to in-person learning.
“We’re not gonna let Zoom prevent us from delivering the quality of education as we can during the day,” Bradley Brock, principal of La Cumbre Junior High School, told the News-Press.
After his first year as principal ended with a global pandemic and education challenges never seen before, Mr. Brock said the challenge this year is the same as last year — to ensure all students are safe and provided with a quality education regardless of their demographics or situation.
One way the school is doing this is by offering free social-distanced daycare at the school for staff who have to work but also have young kids at home who need to learn themselves.
“This is critical for us to come back, because all of us are trying to have those Zooms from our living rooms and take care of our little ones and also be here for our kids in the district,” Mr. Brock said.
In addition, La Cumbre is incorporating new innovative ways to bring the classroom feel to remote learning by offering new programs that allow their kids to have hands-on learning experiences while at home.
“One of my major goals with it this year is to actually get them off the screen,” said David Abel, industrial technology teacher at La Cumbre. “We get these big blocks of schedule times, and so have them come in, check in, teach them their lesson for it, but then with that big block of time, get them to work individually or personally on the task that we have them similar to like what we would have in class here and then come back and check in.”
Mr. Abel said although he has been teaching for a long time and had a taste of remote learning last spring, it still feels like his first year teaching due to all of the new challenges and teaching methods.
“I’m happy to be here and I didn’t know how much I missed my classroom until I walked into it today and I don’t have kids lining up and shaking there hands introducing ‘Hi, I’m Mr. Abel, you are?’” Mr. Abel said.
Mr. Abel said one challenge in teaching his class remotely is finding out how to get the students to work with materials that all students have access to at home. To do this, he is finding ways to figure out what materials every student has, as well as putting together tool kits that students can take home, so they can still have a hands-on learning experience while at home.
In addition to tool kits, Mr. Brock told the News-Press other programs are also sending home various items to help enrich the experience of online learning. Some programs, such as the brand new theater program at La Cumbre, are sending kids home with things like props to help students perform monologues. Others, like certain science classes, are even sending things like solar-powered cars home to their students.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there is no way of telling when or if students will return to in-person learning this school year. For now, educators like Mr. Abel and administrators like Mr. Brock will continue in their efforts to adapt as best they can to provide the safest and best quality education for the nation’s future generations.