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Challenging year ahead for students, teachers
• Distance learning greets 2020-21 year
Alyssa Long
Alyssa Long, a longtime Ceres resident and first-year sixth-grade teacher at Westport Elementary School, would prefer having her students in the classroom but said she tries to make the online meeting place to be a safe place where students feel at home. Nobody knows how long distance learning will be a part of the education process in California.

Ceres Unified welcomed its 14,000-plus students back to school last week.

No students stepped foot on campus as state-imposed coronavirus restrictions forced school districts in Stanislaus County and throughout California to change the way they educate.

Remote learning will be the new norm until COVID-19 numbers decrease.

“We were working right up to the start of the school year to make sure everything would go smoothly for our students and families,” said Beth Jimenez, communications specialist for Ceres Unified. “The feedback that I have seen has been very positive. But we’re always looking for ways to improve.”

CUSD’s Distance Learning plan will rely heavily on the use of online educational tools such as Google Classroom, Zoom Video Conferencing and Clever. The district has provided all of its students with Google Chromebooks.

“The kids are happy to be back,” said Alyssa Long, a first-year sixth-grade teacher at Westport Elementary School. “I wish they were here with me. I try so hard to make my classroom a home. For some kids, this is their safe place.”

Approximately 26 of Long’s 30 students participated in Zoom meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“I’ve made contact with every student who didn’t happen last spring,” Long said. “Our lessons are prerecorded. The kids can pause them and go back. We’re required to provide one hour of live interaction per student every day. We’re going to make tutorial videos so parents have visuals. It will be interesting to see how all technology holds up as the year progresses.”

“The first few days were introduction stuff,” said Derrick Goblirsch, who teaches four periods of math and two periods of weight training at Central Valley High School. “We went through the syllabus and expectations. It was nice to interact with the students every day even though it was on Zoom. I enjoyed that. For the most part, I had great participation. My attendance was good.”

Goblirsch has close to a combined 200 student in his classes.

“It’s going to be challenging for the kids,” he said. “The teachers are working hard. They’re making sure they’re proficient in the technology they’re using. I haven’t had any huge technology issues up to this point, which is a good thing.”

“I miss being on campus and interacting with people,” Central Valley senior Isaiah Hidalgo said. “Being involved in school feels good. Learning over the computer is not the same. It’s just way different. You have stay focused.”

“Some of the teachers didn’t give us Zoom links,” Ceres High senior Amare Padilla said. “Sometimes, the links didn’t work. I emailed the teachers I couldn’t get a hold of. I think things will get better moving forward. It can’t get worse than this.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever truly get used to talking to my students through a camera, but we made it through the first week of distance learning,” Cesar Chavez Jr. High eighth-grade math teacher Jimmy Bates stated on Twitter.

“The ultimate goal is to return students to the classroom safely,” Jimenez said. “It’s contingent on getting the COVID-19 numbers under control.”

Jillian Terpstra
Westport Elementary School kindergarten teacher Jillian Terpstra speaks to students online.