SALT LAKE CITY — For Salt Lake City School District students, the school year starts Sept. 8, but until then educators are hard at work connecting with students and ensuring they have the tools they need to take part in remote learning.
On Tuesday, educators, counselors and parent volunteers from Clayton Middle School visited Park Place at City Centre Apartments to help students register for school, and to deliver school supplies, food and technology to students to help them get off to a good start this academic year.
Salt Lake City schools will start the school year with online learning, with the hope of shifting to a hybrid model of instruction once COVID-19 infection rates in Salt Lake County consistently reach lower levels.
“Typically our kids would be in school today but instead, for the next two weeks, our teachers will be doing outreach to students, Zoom calls, home visits to connect with kids,” said Clayton Middle School Principal Dallin Miller.
“We feel it’s super important to have the kids see their teachers’ faces, make eye contact, say ‘hi,’ even if it’s brief. Once the kids feel that connection they’ll feel more accountable to show up to Zoom calls. We’re trying to make this as normal as possible for the students.”
Students will attend school online during regular school hours and follow a standard bell schedule. Educators will teach live using video conferencing technology such as Zoom or Teams. Students will learn online at the same time and, depending on their level in school, some will self-direct their learning.
Daniella Martinez, who will start eighth grade this fall, said she enjoys school and is looking forward to resuming her studies.
Last spring, she tried to take online classes using her computer at home “but it didn’t work properly so I had to go to school to get one,” she said.
At first, remote learning was “kind of difficult, but I’ve been learning how to do it more and more.”
Clayton educators brought her a laptop Tuesday to help ensure she’ll be ready to learn on day one.
While remote learning means it will be a while before she sees her friends again and she can have in-person attention from teachers, Martinez said she feels “pretty great” about returning to learning.
“We’re counting on them being there,” Miller said. In fact, school attendance will be the school’s primary objective the first weeks of school.
If a student isn’t “attending school,” teachers and counselors will be knocking on doors “to see what we can do for them and help them understand that this is important and it’s not as optional as it felt like in the spring,” Miller said.
Teachers have worked to refine their online teaching techniques and to learn more about the teaching platforms they will be using.
Teachers have learning objectives, will offer research-based instruction of Utah’s core curriculum, and school grading systems will be back in effect, Miller said.
“We’re spending a lot of time talking to teachers, parents and kids about how this should look completely different than the spring,” he said.
Pray Mo, an incoming seventh grader, said she’s “kind of nervous” about returning to schools. “It’s kind of harder to do online school.”
It really helped that her school brought her a laptop Tuesday when she registered for school because she didn’t have one that worked. “My brother broke mine,” she said.
Miller said school staff also helped families sign up for Wi-Fi or hot spots. School counselors passed out “self-care bags” to help students better manage stress.
Clayton educators have done a lot of work to prepare for a new school year that will be like no other, Miller said.
“We’ll be ready for the kids. We’re trying to prepare them (students) to be ready for us,” he said.