Students, Teachers Reflect on the First Day of School

As distance learning commenced, members of the Rio community weighed in with their first impressions for the school year.

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Photo By Emma Hutchinson

Sophomore Maelyn Hutchinson sits down at her computer on the first day of school and enters Google Classroom where she will access information to get her into Zoom for each of her classes.

Emma Hutchinson and Katelyn Newton

The first day of school looked a little different for everyone this year; instead of having to get up early to get dressed, drive to school, and visit lockers before class, students could have simply rolled out of bed, put t-shirts on over pajama bottoms, and sat down in their rooms for the beginning of the school day.

Distance learning platforms were temporarily inaccessible to some students this morning given the high volume of students and staff trying to log on to the San Juan Student Portal to access Google Classroom and Zoom at the same time for the beginning of synchronous learning. The district technology staff faced the challenge of navigating the various technological problems. 

With patience, however, once students could access Google Classroom, some reported positive reviews. 

“While it obviously wasn’t how I envisioned or wished to start my senior year, my first day actually went really well,” senior Lucy Prieto said. “I think both my teachers and classmates did an amazing job adapting to these unique circumstances.”

In the spring, many students and families experienced the challenges of distance learning as teachers tried to learn how to teach students in a new form and use new programs and technology. Students faced their own troubles involving everything from access to sufficient technology and internet connection to having to teach themselves course material with minimal guidance from teachers. 

Over the summer, the district collaborated with schools and administrators to gather chromebooks to distribute to students, ensuring access to the distance learning platforms for a more unified learning experience. Staff members from multiple schools and various departments also spent the summer working to develop distance learning curriculum and schedules that would better allow both teachers and students to access and utilize the necessary resources for successful virtual learning. 

The new distance learning bell schedule sets up a block schedule where students meet in each of their classes two days a week for 90 minutes, and meet for all six classes on Wednesdays for teachers to check in mid week, with 15 minutes allotted for each class. Some of that time is used for active instruction by teachers, and the rest can be used in various ways, including for asynchronous activities. 

“I think the first day of school was definitely more organized than the spring distance learning,” said senior Annika Bjork. “In the spring, none of my teachers really did Zoom calls and all the work was just independent study style over Google Classroom, so I feel like I’m a lot more supported now since my day is more structured.” 

Students across grade levels had mixed feelings about starting their school years online. Seniors worried about missing out on all of the early school year traditions, freshman worried about starting at a new school full of new people without being able to see anyone in person and making friends, and juniors worried about how they would make the connection with teachers and classmates to pull them through the academic rigor the school year will bring. 

But, the efforts across the board provided an overall positive experience for students on the first day. 

“The first day was pretty good, my teachers are super fun and nice,” said freshman Josie Parod. “So far today I had health, PE, and Spanish, it was a successful first day!”

How distance learning will progress has yet to be seen, but as teachers and students further understand the new platforms and routines associated with distance learning, many are optimistic for a positive academic experience for all. 

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