Ventura County Office of Education faces new challenges with distance learning amid the County’s return to the Purple Tier

The+Ventura+County+Office+of+Education+in+Camarillo%2C+Calif.+remains+closed+on+Friday%2C+Dec.11.+The+office+has+limited+visitations+due+to+the+COVID-19+pandemic.+Photo+credit%3A+Leslie+Mendez

The Ventura County Office of Education in Camarillo, Calif. remains closed on Friday, Dec.11. The office has limited visitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Leslie Mendez

By Leslie Mendez

In-person instruction at the select schools will carry on with the new stay at home order announced on Thursday, December 3, by California Governor Gavin Newsom in his press release.

Back in April, the Ventura County Office of Education, also known as VCOE, made the precautious decision to commence distance learning due to the continued COVID-19 public health risks. It has been eight months since that decision was made and since then the education plan has developed greatly within that time.

Ventura County superintendent of schools Stan Mantooth updated the distance learning program in an interview.

“As far as distance learning, we have made tremendous progress in the techniques the teachers are using and different learning management systems, resources, and overall familiarity,” explained Mantooth. “But it is still no substitute for having kids in-person.”

Rancho Rosal Elementary School in Camarillo, Calif. displays procedure for student pick-up and drop-off on Friday, Dec. 11, due to COVID-19 concerns in California. Photo credit: Leslie Mendez
Rancho Rosal Elementary School in Camarillo, Calif. displays procedure for student pick-up and drop-off on Friday, Dec. 11, due to COVID-19 concerns in California. Photo credit: Leslie Mendez

Unfortunately, this is only one of the many setbacks faculty and staff members have faced as a result of the pandemic.

Few Ventura County school districts have had in-person instruction but those who remained virtual will remain learning remotely until the county returns to the red tier status on the state’s coronavirus watch list for 14 days.

“We are having some difficulty engaging some students,” stated Mantooth. “It goes without saying that it’s been a challenge making sure we keep contact.”

With attendance rates lowering because of the special circumstances of virtual learning, teachers are making great efforts to accommodate their students.

Science teacher Jessica Stilson from Valley View Middle School reported that as her classes remain virtual she has changed her leniency to alleviate this shift in learning.

“I have made accommodations for my students when it comes to submitting assignments,” said Stilson. “Allowing them to turn things in late without penalty as well as redoing assignments if they are unhappy with their score.”

The transition to virtual learning hasn’t been rather seamless. Teachers have transformed their teaching plans to formats that are more compatible with digital platforms and developed skills to understand their students.

Stephanie Knecht, a math teacher from Monte Vista Middle School described that working with her students via Zoom has been challenging.

“So much of teaching is reading a student’s face, or body language to see if they need help, or are uncomfortable with what is being taught in class,” expressed Knecht. “Doing this through Zoom is much harder.”

Monte Vista Middle School in Camarillo, Calif. is now open with a modified schedule on Friday, Dec. 11, due to COVID-19 precautions in California. Photo credit: Leslie Mendez
Monte Vista Middle School in Camarillo, Calif. is now open with a modified schedule on Friday, Dec. 11, due to COVID-19 precautions in California. Photo credit: Leslie Mendez

These cues are crucial in in-person teaching because it gives teachers feedback.

This global lockdown has presented a mental toll on many, especially students. Teachers are incorporating social-emotional learning activities and constantly checking in on students and ensuring they thrive in their current situations.

“I have reserved the first 5-10 minutes of Zoom to check in with them and share some things about their day/week,” shared Stilson to help combat the lack of motivation within her students. “Many students don’t have support at home because their parents are back and work and my students are often responsible for helping younger siblings.”

Although this new Regional Stay at Home Order has stalled the reopening dates of schools all over Ventura County, the VCOE teachers continue to discover new ways to make virtual learning entertaining and efficient.

For more information and updates, please visit the Ventura County Office of Education website.