Fresno Unified builds virtual school schedules to deliver meaningful education

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Unified students now know what their school days will look like when the virtual school years kicks off next week, and administrators hope some changes will help deliver more meaningful education.

They know they need to improve on the quality of online learning for students in the state's third-biggest school district.

"The distance learning families experienced this past spring will not be what families experience this new school year," said Fresno Unified School Board President Keshia Thomas.

They're hoping to address some concerns by making sure students get live, virtual lessons from teachers every day.

So they built a school schedule - and posted it online - with at least 90 minutes of live instruction every day, depending on grade level.

They want students to develop relationships with teachers - even in a virtual classroom - and they want the kids to get a complete school experience.

"Our kids need the opportunity for enrichment experiences in addition to just the regular baseline English, language arts, and math," said Superintendent Bob Nelson. "And our kids need time for play, and fitness and nutrition and peer-to-peer connection."

The district has also tried to address the problem of internet access by distributing laptops and setting up almost 3,000 hot spots, mostly in south Fresno.

But they're anticipating new problems will pop up.

"I want to admit that things may not be perfect, but we definitely want to be of support to you and we want to resolve any challenges that families are having," said school board trustee Veva Islas.

Teachers will essentially have office hours for parent meetings two days every week.

They'll connect with each other twice a week to discuss what's working and what's not.

They're also making plans for when they can head back to the physical classroom, like creating block days for middle and high schoolers to reduce the number of people each students is exposed to every day.

The return to in-person instruction still seems far away, but Nelson says the district will have time to transition.

"We have to be 14 days off the watch list, so I'm thinking in Fresno that's going to be pretty big news," he said. "If we even get a day off the watch list, everybody will know."

This first of its kind school year starts in a week, but the first couple days will be orientation so students and parents can get a better idea of what's coming.
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