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Students begin remote learning in Palm Beach, Indian River counties

Educators embrace 'new way of teaching and learning'
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Posted at 5:51 AM, Mar 31, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After days of training and careful planning, students and teachers in Palm Beach and Indian River counties started remote learning on Tuesday.

Palm Beach County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy sent a video greeting to all parents and students to get them ready for the big day. The district is using Google Classroom for its remote learning.

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Fennoy said that online classes are the best way to keep students and teachers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. "It's very important you remember that students throughout Florida, the country, and much of the world are learning the same way you are right now," he said. "We call the way that you are learning distance learning, but you are not alone."

Despite the careful planning, some moms are struggling to balance it all. "I'm not," said Palm Beach Gardens working mom Nadia Spavik with a laugh. "I don't know how." Spavik was candid about her struggles of balancing schooling for two children in different age groups, working her full-time, demanding economics job, and doing all this solo since her husband still has to run his pharmacy business.

"I keep feeling like these months are going to be wasted and that’s so overwhelming that sometimes I just put them in front of the TV, and I just mentally shut down. I just sit there with a bag of chips in my kitchen and hide," Spavik said again, trying to find humor in the circumstances.

All joking aside, she says her work output has pretty much slowed to a halt. "I thought I would do it at night when my kids went to bed, but by then I’m so exhausted and so mentally drained," said told Contact 5's Merris Badcock.

Fennoy announced on Tuesday that all schools within the School District of Palm Beach County will be closed "until further notice."

With social distancing in mind, district leaders said events like graduation and testing should be presumed canceled.

Indian River County Superintendent David Moore said his teachers spent days learning how to work remotely.

"This is a new way of teaching and learning, but an opportunity for us to rethink and expand how we are providing instruction to all students across the county, and ultimately, across the nation," Moore said.

Digital learning started for students in Martin, St. Lucie, and Okeechobee counties on Monday.

The State University System of Florida announced earlier this month that all state colleges and universities will do online classes only for the rest of the Spring semester.

Others are stepping up to help parents through this jarring transition. With a child in kindergarten, another in elementary and a third in middle school, plus ten years of homeschooling under her belt, Palm Beach Garden mom Ramona Saridakis Bean is sharing ways to help parents. "I can understand the frustration of folks right now who have to develop this immediately, when it has taken me years to develop this," she said during a FaceTime interview.

  • First, start by setting up different learning spaces. "We have a work space; we have an area where it’s reading, leisure, screen time; and then we have another area where it’s defined as school time," said Bean.
  • Next? Get on a schedule as soon as possis. "The kids? They love routines. Many kids right now are missing the routine of school," she said.
  • Set your older kids up to shine by handing off some responsibility if you need to make a conference call, and consider showing them part of your job while you knock some things off the 'to-do list'. "You may find, and to the effect of some comic relief, they start to copy what you do. Kids love mimicking," said Bean.
  • No matter what: be kind to yourself during this transition. "You are the leader of your home right now," said Bean. "I understand the stress. I think we are all in it together for sure," she said.

Bean also provided us with a bunch of *FREE* learning resources for parents who need help keeping their kids occupied. Below is a list contributed by Bean, courtesy of her blog, CEOOfTheHome.net.

Loggerhead Marine Life Center

South Florida Science Center and Aquarium

Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

NASA at Home

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

Rock With Mama

Arts and Culture with Google