coronavirus pandemic

Miami-Dade Teachers and Students Still Unfamiliar With Virtual Schooling Platform

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After a long career in education, math teacher Andrew Kearns has seen it all, done it all.

“This is my 35th year teaching and I’m anxious as I would be as a first-year teacher,” said Kearns, who teaches at what calls “the best school in South Florida,” Jose Marti MAST Academy.

Kearns is anxious because he will be using the Miami-Dade County Public Schools new distance learning platform, but, like five other teachers I spoke to today, Kearns says he hasn’t yet been able to fully access and learn the My School Online system.

School starts Monday.

“I’m always optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to contact our students on Monday morning, that’s the big question is do we have access to our students and do students have access to us? Because currently I do not have access to the students that are in my first block class that I will see Monday morning,” Kearns said.

“I have to say that I have some major jitters going on right now,” said Priscilla Roche, who teaches history at Shenandoah Middle School.

Roche is also the parent of a second-grader. She told us she’s not yet comfortable with My School Online, either, as a teacher or as a parent.

“That’s the whole reason why I’m nervous, it’s gonna be the true definition of multitasking and being aware of what she’s doing and then having to focus on my students and what we’re doing as well,” Roche said. “I have to say the teachers are pulling together, we’re all pulling together and we’re helping each other and some are very tech savvy and those are the ones that have really helped us on our team.”

Rachel Umlas manages a doctor’s office. She has two kids in middle school and one in high school. I asked her if her children had been able to access My School Online yet, just to explore the platform.

“No they haven’t, not so far,” Umlas said. “I mean it’s concerning just because of that but also I have three kids so my other concern is once they are able to access it, is there gonna be enough bandwidth in one house to support three kids in My School Online?”

Everyone with a multiple log-in household is going to find out the answer to that issue on Monday morning when school starts.

The uncertainty with distance learning is one reason why Umlas and many parents have signed their kids up to go back to the classroom as soon as that is possible.

The school district, through superintendent Alberto Carvalho, has been expressing confidence all week that the system will work on the first day of school. They are also reminding parents, students, and teachers that the first week of school is devoted to everyone learning My School Online. Academic content takes a backseat to students and teachers getting to know each other as much as possible in the virtual environment.

So the message to parents is if you do have tech problems or access issues, be patient, chances are your kids won’t be missing anything crucial during that first week of school. “You know it’s new to everyone, we just have to jump in and try it, I'm willing to do that, I hope my kids won’t be disappointed or frustrated,” Umlas said.

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