The Elk Grove Unified School District staff on March 23 announced their plans to shift all of their schools to “distance learning,” starting in mid-April. Under this plan, students will use the internet to continue their education until their campuses reopen.

“We’ll start learning again, but it just may not be in a physical environment,” district spokesperson Xanthi Pinkerton told the Citizen.

Elk Grove Unified’s 67 campuses have been closed since March 7, due to the novel coronavirus situation. They were one of California’s earliest school districts to close all of their schools, after officials heard that family members of a few students tested positive for the virus.

The Elk Grove school board on March 13 voted to reopen the schools and resume student activities on April 11, after the Spring Break vacation ends.

This district now plans to finish their current school year via distance learning during a time when coronavirus cases are rising. As of March 25, 113 confirmed cases and five deaths were reported in Sacramento County.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a March 17 press conference that he expects his state’s schools to remain closed for the rest of their academic year.

On March 23, Elk Grove Unified announced that all schools, regardless of their academic calendars, will end their 2019-20 school year on May 29. The school district serves nearly 64,000 students in grades K-12 and they also operate an adult education center.  

Pinkerton explained that the school calendars were changed to a single schedule since campus capacity is not an issue in online learning.

“That’s a big shift for a lot of people,” she said about the calendar changes. “But now that we’re moving toward online learning, the capacity at a school site isn’t necessarily taken into consideration.”

The district’s teachers this week started receiving instructions on how to use internet applications like Zoom, Synergy, and Google Apps for Education in order to implement their online courses for students. They will then begin preparing their lesson plans during the week of March 30.

Plans are to resume instruction after the Spring Break vacation week of April 6-10. Middle and high schools will first begin their online instruction on April 16, and elementary schools will start on April 20.

As for students who lack internet access at home, the district is working on a system of lending Google Chromebook computers to them. They will also provide instructions on how to connect the network computers to Wi-fi spots.

During her interview with the Citizen, Pinkerton mentioned several challenges that face the large district. She said they have to accommodate high school seniors, students from low-income families, and special education students.

“We have around 9,000 special education students, and we need to be mindful about their abilities and their access to online learning,” Pinkerton said.

She mentioned that teachers and school administrators will also have to reach out to students “little by little” through methods like the internet and “good old-fashioned telephone.”

The district staff encourages students and parents to visit their EGUSD Family Resources webpage for tips on what to do at home during the coronavirus situation.

Pinkerton said that the website provides tools for parents to help their children mentally prepare for their return to school.

“We’re encouraging parents to really focus on social and emotional learning at home,” she said.

For information about the EGUSD Family Resources program, visit https://sites.google.com/egusd.net/family-resources.