Parents express concern with distance learning in Riverside

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Menifee Union School District announced it will begin the school year with distance learning in August, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 17 announcement that all counties on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, including Riverside County, will not be permitted to have students return to campus unless the county can go 14 days without any new COVID-19 cases.

“In the coming weeks, we will continue to provide the details of virtual learning and the opening of the school year, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 12,” superintendent Gary Rutherford said in a news release. “We encourage you to check your email and visit our website at http://www.menifeeusd.org for updates.”

Menifee resident Silvia Simmons has three children who will be attending Boulder Ridge Elementary School this year. While Simmons acknowledged the situation was upsetting for many parents, students and teachers, she said she understood the state’s decision to take part in distance learning during the pandemic.

“My kids want to go back to school,” Simmons said. “They want to see their friends and go back to normal, but when I look at all the things that would have been required of them to go back, it is anything but normal.”

When Boulder Ridge Elementary School shut down in mid-March, Simmons’ daughter was learning how to read. Her daughter’s teacher was frequently creating new lesson plans and finding teach videos on YouTube to help children feel that they were inside of a classroom, Simmons said.

“All of my kids’ teachers went above and beyond to stay in touch, provide instruction and offer their support,” Simmons said. “That’s how you know the teachers really do care about their students.”

As many parents navigate the education and child care options for while they are at work, Laura Bejar, a mother of a child entering kindergarten, shared her concerns with distance learning.

“I am actually going to be taking leave from work because we don’t have a safe child care option,” Bejar said. “I still don’t know financially how this is going to work for us, but as my husband continues to remind me, there’s no amount of money that can make up for a healthy family/baby.”

Menifee Valley School District included several options to allow for smooth transitions into the new school year to accommodate parents and their children’s needs.

The first is the “distance learning model,” which includes a standards-based online program with teachers present for online support. While lessons will occur online, teachers will be readily available via video chat.

The “in-person transitional model” will be similar to traditional schooling, where students will meet with teachers in person on specified days with safety measures in place, such as wearing a face mask and frequent sanitizing of surfaces and hand-washing.

Regardless of chosen learning model, the TK-eighth grade students will be assigned Chromebooks, the district said.

Samantha Cox can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.