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Weston kindergarten teacher says new-normal learning a difficult adjustment

WESTON, Fla. – It’s been a week since Broward County School have gone back to school — virtually for now because of COVID-19.

Usually, one Weston teacher’s classroom is buzzing with kids, but today it is eerily quiet.

"I don't think I've ever cried this much as I have during this situation," Shannon Martinez, Gator Run Elementary School Teacher, said.

She has been teaching for 25 years and says she has never been so emotionally drained.

“I think that we’re competing with the environment of their home,” Martinez said.

She is one of an average of 20 teachers who have chosen to teach from their classroom in a school of more than 1,200 students.

She has tried to turn the small screen into an entertainment experience from using noise-making gadgets to changing the sound of her voice.

[RELATED: Facebook Live Town Hall with Broward Schools, Wednesday, 6 p.m. Click here to join.]

Martinez said props help keep the students engaged.

"It's not one size fits all. Little children need less screen time," she said.

Gator Run Elementary’s principal, Keith Peters, agrees that it hasn’t been easy.

“I mean it was immense. Much different than any other year.”

Being principal, according to Peters, has meant being counselor in chief, dealing with teacher and parent frustration.

"Understand that we're going to make mistakes with this, but that's how we get better," he said.

Martinez builds in several breaks throughout the day. She uses a timer and has trained the children that when they hear the sound, they know it's time to come back to the computer.

“They’re little. They need to move. They need to get away from the screen.”

For parents who are trying to help children who are just starting out, Martinez said that presents struggles.

"I think for parents it's challenging because you know their children are brand new to school so they're learning how to be students and they're doing it in a virtual setting."

Last week, we interviewed kindergartener, Olivia, and her mom, Sarah Mulligan, who were having plenty of trouble on the first week of class.

Sarah said despite initial roadblocks, things are better now. She said her biggest challenge is keeping her daughter focused.

“She’d rather be at school,” Sarah Mulligan said.

Martinez said she cares about the parents and the children and wants this new normal to be a good experience for her students.

“Emotionally it’s been draining but at the end of the day I want the same thing that parents want. I want my kids to learn.”

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Schools start virtual classes on Monday, but Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Albert Carvalho said that students could be heading back into classrooms earlier than anticipated if the COVID-19 positivity numbers continue to decline in the county.

“If we see a sustained reduction of those indicators for no less than 14 consecutive days, then according to our medical experts, we are ready to initiate the re-opening of schools,” Carvalho said during an event in collaboration with the Miami Heat and Comcast Wednesday. “Obviously, we’re informed by the best medical and public health advice here locally.”

The superintendent previously said that the board would re-evaluate local conditions by late September with a possible return-to-school announcement Oct. 5.

“We may hit appropriate healthy conditions that may allow the return of students to school in a safe methodical and limited way earlier than Oct. 5 or Sept. 30. In fact, based on the latest projections, we may hit those thresholds sometime in mid- to late-September,” Carvalho said.

In Broward County, superintendent Robert Runcie said that district will revisit in-class learning after Labor Day. There was an enrollment decrease in Broward County Schools by about 7,600 students this school year. When Carvalho was asked about a decrease in enrollment in his school district, he said that the county won’t have an accurate enrollment count until after Labor Day.

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.