Thousands of students begin new school year remotely in Merced

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The first day of school began with virtual greetings for students enrolled at all of the Merced City School District's 14 elementary and 4 middle schools.

The district provided more than 10,000 devices and hundreds of hot spots to allow children to log on from home, but officials made the decision to have teachers work in their classrooms.

Superintendent Dr. Al Rogers says, "Distance learning presented us that challenge of getting the technology of the hands of the students, and we also needed to make sure the teachers had a stable infrastructure so they could guarantee a high-quality instructional resource for those students."

Dr. Rogers says employees are allowed to bring their children to school with them for a new supervised program that's available at each campus. There's also extra support for anyone who may be dealing with technical troubles.

He explains, "From 6:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening, families and staff can call and get a live person who will either handle their problem right there or route it to another office. That may involve deploying a technician to their location to fix whatever the challenge is."

Curbside grab and go meals are also available twice a day at every campus, and time is being set aside for breaks, stretching, and other physical activity.

Tenaya Middle School P.E. teacher Jill Mendoza-Powers says, "I view it as extremely important. It's a lot of sitting in order to be doing distance learning, so it's going to be important for them to get that 30-60 minutes hopefully of some sort of exercise."

The pandemic is continuing to force everyone to be flexible.

"It's a new day. It's definitely the 21st century, and I'm proud as can be of the students and their teachers," says Dr. Rogers.

The district is also preparing for when students are eventually allowed to return to class.

The plan includes cohorts to limit the number of children interacting at one time, along with the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing.
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