Local school districts are finding themselves in a new — but somewhat familiar — world as they move from traditional classrooms to a digital format.

Sahuarita Unified School District's first day of remote learning started Monday and will continue until April 10, or whenever the schools open again.

Through a variety of online platforms and resources, the district will be providing a modified version of the curriculum, using teachers to help determine what that will look like.

Brett Bonner, assistant superintendent for educational services, is directing the plan for remote education through the closure. The district began to map out the plan during Spring Break.

He said though this major shift was an unplanned and sudden one, they were able to transition to a platform many teachers are already familiar with.

“In a very short amount of time we went from a brick and mortar, very traditional class delivery system where you have direct instruction and students on the grounds and the resources at arms reach, where now we had to make an immediate shift to support the goals of being healthy and move to a digital platform to deliver instruction,” he said. “Working closely with our team, the most viable, realistic and most resourceful approach to migrate and provide support is by using Google Classroom.”

Google Classroom, which allows educators to create classes, deliver assignments and send feedback online, is the main platform on which classes will be administered.

The district already utilizes this platform and is using it now as the home base of virtual classrooms, along with Google Hangouts and video components.

Bonner provided tutorials to teachers prior to the implementation date to help them set up Google classrooms and provide their students instructions.

The actual content of those classrooms “won’t look like the traditional school day,” Bonner said, and modifications to class curriculums did have to take place.

In a March 18 letter to teaching staff, Bonner explained that “academic modifications will vary based on grade level, age appropriateness, access to digital platforms and working closely with parents/guardians.”

The district uses Beyond Textbooks, a curriculum calendar and online resource bank that helps ensure students in the same grade level are learning the same standards across the district’s schools.

It’s providing a timeline for teachers as they determine their online lesson plans.

One of the other digital resources the district is using is i-Ready, an online educational assessment and instruction program. Additionally, some of the district’s textbooks already have digital resources.

Teachers are working together to try to support one another and their students through the transition.

Third grade teacher Julie Tatum said the transition was a little shocking at first because she has worked in a traditional classroom so long.

“I want my students to know how much they’re loved and that warmth and joy that occurs in your classroom, it's hard to create that online,” she said. “I’ve been trying to find fun pictures, cats flying around in space, things like that, to make it as kid-friendly as I possibly can.”

She said students have already been logging in and sending pictures of themselves learning at home. The class will be spending the week reviewing material from previous classwork.

“Right now, I’m focusing on keeping them happy, keeping them learning and helping them to feel confident,” she said.

Bonner said that students and teachers will be in regular communication through this process and grading will still continue while classes are digital.

“Our grades are in a digital format so teachers can continue to enter grades remotely, review grades through the quick look up and parents may and can continue to look at grades on the PowerSchool app,” Bonner said. “A number of grades may be reduced or there may not be as many because of our modified approach, but you can expect grade entry to continue.”

Paper report cards will resume once the closure ends and if that extends past April 10, the district will mail report cards out.

For students who don’t have access to sufficient internet or electronic devices, the district is offering printed workbooks with the same material. Students are able to pick these up during the district’s free meal distributions, Monday through Friday at Wrightson Ridge School or Sopori Elementary School.

“Families who have digital access, please save the printed material for folks who have no access,” Bonner said. “We want to provide fairness to all students so if a family has the means to use the online platform, that's preferred.”

Parents will hold on to the packets until the schools open back up.

If students or parents have any questions or concerns regarding online classrooms, their teacher is their point of contact. The district also has a form on their website where people can make technical support requests.

Parent/teacher conferences that were scheduled this week will still occur remotely, using a form of digital communication.

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