Students receive laptops, parents get lessons on distance learning ahead of school year

Parents worry about success of school year as students get ready for distance learning
Parents worry about success of school year as students get ready for distance learning

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A laptop distribution was held Thursday morning at Hollywood Hills Elementary School as students prepare to return to class virtually.

Principal John Fossas feels confident things this school year will go well.

“I believe that the district has come up with a wonderful plan on laying out steps and procedures as to how the school year is going to go in the e-learning environment,” he said.

While both Broward and Miami-Dade’s school districts say things will go much smoother this time around, students and parents got a sneak peak at what online learning can be like during the end of the last school year.

Josh Madan said though his son managed to excel academically, it certainly wasn’t ideal.

“He missed his friends, he definitely had a little cabin fever throughout the summer and the year,” Madan said.

Other parents, like Sarah Furno have even bigger concerns, saying she and her husband have jobs that won’t allow them to be home with her second grader.

“I don’t have the luxury of not going into work, my husband doesn’t have the luxury of not going into work, so either he sits in his truck all day with the laptop or we have a private tutor or I don’t know, we have to figure it out,” she said.

Furno, like many parents, said she has no idea how her 6-year-old will be able to focus and is trying to figure out other options. But for now, she feels stuck.

“Last year, he had one hour of teacher time in front of the screen. Twenty minutes in, he was done. They’re not engaged anymore. It’s very, very difficult when they’re that young,” she said. “I’m prepared that he’s going to sacrifice his academic education for these next few months.”

The first day of distance learning for Broward County public school students is Aug. 19 and public school students in Miami-Dade County will begin distance learning on Aug. 31.

On Wednesday night, it was parents’ turn to go to class in Broward.

“I’m very confused and overwhelmed, and I really don’t know what to expect,” one mother, Vivian Torres, said.

With only days until school starts in Broward County, parents still have a lot of questions.

Torres’ son, Michael Dominque, starts kindergarten when classes begin next week.

“I don’t know how many hours he’s going to be able to be on a computer, paying attention to the computer,” Torres said.

On Wednesday, Broward County Public Schools officials tried to answer some questions and calm some fears by doing an online webinar called Parents University aimed at getting parents and guardians familiar with what the new school year will look like and introducing them to the new learning platforms.

But Torres said she still isn’t totally clear on how it will all work.

“I’m still very confused,” she said.

In Miami-Dade County, parents have similar questions. So the school district launched a new back to school website that tries to provide some answers and even has a phone number for a help line.

They’re also providing laptops and Wi-Fi access, with hopes of having as many students online and focused as possible.

“Attendance will be taken periodically throughout the school day to make sure students are fully engaged,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools will be holding a town hall for parents to ask questions at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 25.

Broward’s school district is going to be holding more of their Parent University webinars to try and clear things up, as well.

Representatives from both districts say they plan to re-assess in-school learning in the coming months to determine when students will be allowed back into the classroom.

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