‘Learning as we go’: Distance learning kicks off for Nevada County students (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY) | TheUnion.com

‘Learning as we go’: Distance learning kicks off for Nevada County students (VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY)

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Almost nothing is exactly as it was locally before the coronavirus outbreak began affecting residents.

That includes spaces for learning.

After a break last week, Nevada County students are now participating in various forms of study — via makeshift video conference classrooms, recorded lessons and instructional packets — from their own homes.

Despite the change, teachers across the county have been well prepared for this moment, as they’ve been gathering materials for their students to complete for almost two weeks, according to Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden.

Nevada Union High School senior Caitlin McCormick has also been prepared. She’s been engaged with distance learning since last week, as she’s prepping for four Advanced Placement tests still set to go for early May. McCormick said she’s had a good internet connection and solid communication with her teachers, which has helped ease the transition.

“I feel really lucky that I have good teachers this year,” she said. “They have been really supportive.”

For students lacking internet access, students can drive to the parking lot of Nevada Union to download materials before going back home to complete the assignments, said McCormick.

The same is true for Ghidotti Early College High School students, according to the school’s principal Noah Levinson. For those unable to download school work, Levinson said he’s sending material on a thumb drive in the mail to students. They can then upload the content to their personal computers.

The rollout of school materials has been unified across districts, according to Levinson, and students officially started distance learning Wednesday. Nevada County students will work up until the end of spring break in early April. From there, administrators and staff members will decide how best to proceed depending on how much of a threat the coronavirus remains.

“We’re learning as we go here, and adapting as we go,” said Levinson. “There are so many unknowns.”

Despite the unity, there are different strategies occurring at school sites and even within different classes. Ghidotti is using the virtual learning tool Schoology, and office hours are held virtually based on teacher availability. Administrators, said Levinson, have been using Google Hangouts to video conference with each other.

Deer Creek Elementary School Principal Karen Mix said she was happy Wednesday to see parents and some of her students as she and other administrators passed out learning packets and Chromebooks to begin distance learning.

Many Deer Creek teachers are using mediums like Google Hangouts or Zoom for virtual instruction, and are establishing virtual office hours for students to be able to check in with them.

“This is new for everybody,” said Mix. “We’re just trying to put it out there and see what everybody needs.”


Importantly, Mix is trying to ensure that no student falls far behind, allowing for communication via email and video conferencing to be available for students and parents.

“We want everything to be equitable for our kids,” she said.

After spring break, or possibly in later months, Mix said teachers will have time to review material with students and gauge where they are in the learning process.

“This isn’t just, ‘Here’s your work, you’re on your own,’” she said.

Equity is also a concern for Ghidotti English teacher Janet Mason. A teacher for 30 years, Mason said she’s trying to get comfortable enough with Zoom to use it as a virtual classroom. The English teacher has been taping herself teaching so students can access her lectures at their convenience.

“I think (distance learning) opens up a wealth of opportunity for these kids,” she said, adding, “I just want to make sure they’re getting an equal opportunity.”

Mason particularly hopes distance learning allows for more virtual collaboration between students, and that they learn more together in group projects.

Nevada Union student Caitlin McCormick is also looking forward to working with her peers online, especially to fill in the social gaps that have been erected through physical distancing. It’s especially hard, she said, as prominent events like prom and in-person graduation may not occur.

“I think that’s important, in general, to just stay connected with your friends,” she said.

Although distance learning isn’t much of a change for North Point Academy senior Olivia Duffin, the student said she’s not yet accustomed to studying at home. It can be difficult, she admitted, to stay focused.

“(It’s hard) having to sit down and get things done and not get distracted.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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