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Planning Now Can Help Students Excel When the School Year Starts from Home

An East Bay teacher and parent shares what she's learned to make things easier for families, as California students prepare for more distance learning in the fall.

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Teachers and parents agree: it's not easy turning the dining room into a classroom.

For Darlene Marquez, a San Jose mother, there's another layer of challenge: her job doesn't permit her to work from home.

"I’m trying to pretend to be I.T. and help a ten-year-old kid try to figure out what’s wrong with her computer," Marquez said.

Like many parents around the San Francisco Bay Area, Marquez has already had a taste of a virtual school year. She's once again preparing to be on stand-by at the office this fall, to help her fifth-grader connect with the classroom.

"It’s kind of hard, and frustrating, feeling like I’m not able to be her mom and a parent there supporting her," Marquez said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says most schools will start the fall semester with students learning at home. For teachers like Quyen Bullard in Union City, that means juggling multiple classrooms -- her own, and her kids'.

The sudden shift to online learning last spring was "Hectic," Bullard said. "It was very difficult to balance the mom duties as well as teacher duties."

But thanks to that experience both remote teaching and parenting a remote learner, Bullard says she's learned a lot for the coming virtual school year. She says the top priority for parents should be getting involved, and staying engaged.

“Absolutely important, especially in the younger grades," Bullard said. "They need assistance getting on the computer. They need assistance signing onto different websites and platforms."

That means parents should start planning for the school year now. Start by making sure your home internet is set up to handle the extra traffic. (We'll have a closer look at this, coming up Thursday evening on NBC Bay Area News at 6:00.)

Next, work on a schedule. As both a teacher and parent, Bullard says sticking to a routine is essential to making this work.

"We put together a schedule; a calendar," Bullard said. "For my younger son -- he’s in first grade -- we broke down a lot of his day with time frames, and he checked off whatever activity he was able to do independently."

Bullard says parents shouldn't expect students to spend the entire day in a videoconference with their teachers. There will be lots of offline time, reading and working on assignments. Bullard says with parental support, she's found students are taking their online studies seriously.

"I would say about 95% of my students were extremely engaged," Bullard said. "They were looking for and craving that time with their teacher and friends."

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