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What does remote learning look like for Arizona students?

Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 08:49:15-04

PHOENIX — Families in the Riverside Elementary and Higley districts started remote learning Monday and more than two dozen other districts will follow suit in the next week.

FULL COVERAGE: Safely Back to School in Arizona

With so many unknowns surrounding the new school year, ABC15 is taking a closer look at what distance learning will look like.

For a vast majority of students, remote learning involves learning on a device, at home, or in another safe space, but when it comes to a daily schedule and expectations, that varies by age and district.

"The little guys, they did real well all week," said Todd Furnish, who has four boys in the Apache Junction Unified School District. "I was surprised at how engaged they were."

Apache Junction teachers talk first week of remote learning

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His four sons, ages 5 to 17, started remote learning last week, and while daily schedules for the district's K-12 students are set with live instruction from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., it is definitely not your normal school day.

"Instead of preparing to go shopping, what am I going to wear on the first day of school, it's you know, oh do I have my Chromebook charged so I can wake up and join class?" said 17-year-old Zayden Furnish, a high school senior.

How students connect with their class and for how long will likely depend on their district, their grade level, and even their teacher. For example, K-fourth graders in the Higley District will only have about 90 minutes of virtual live instruction per day. Fifth and sixth graders have about six hours blocked out.

In Phoenix's Creighton district, a sample schedule shows third through fifth graders with about four hours of live instruction and two hours of independent learning.

"We know it has to be different and it has to be improved," said Dr. Scott Menzel, superintendent of Scottsdale Unified School District.

Distance learning is set to start in the Scottsdale district August 10 and as of now, will continue through at least Labor Day. Dr. Menzel says the pressure is on to convince families this round of remote learning will be better, and more structured, than what they saw in the spring.

"We're going to do the very best that we can and we're going to connect with our kids and families, but it isn't optimal," he said. "It'll be better than fourth quarter and still it will be virtual, so that's the challenge that we're facing."

Meantime the Furnish family is still working out the wrinkles.

"One thing I noticed is they were extremely hungry each day for lunch," said Todd Furnish. "I've got to plan, that's one thing I learned is next week I will have a solid lunch schedule set for them."

The family also has this advice for parents about to embark on this "new normal."

"Just be patient, know that it's a process, it's going to be frustrating on both ends," said Todd Furnish.

"They do need to step away from the screen and so when they do get that five, 10-minute break, make sure that they are stepping away," said Jessica Furnish.