By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — School is nearly back in session. After several distance learning duds last school year, how are the largest districts in the Sacramento area working to make round two a better fit?

“There was a point where I was on back to back conference calls,” Holly Singleteary, a parent of two Sac City Unified students said.  “I said, leave your homework – I’ll finish it.”

Singleteary said she wasn’t proud to admit some of the ways she handled distance learning last year. Stuck at home with schools in crisis mode, sometimes she felt she had no choice. Many parents like her were left to figure out how to teach.

“I just simply don’t know how to teach math anymore,” Singleteary said, explaining her struggles. She hopes it will be better this school year.

School districts say they’re working to make that possible. With crowded classrooms a distant memory, distance learning is the new normal.

READ: Gov. Newsom Mandates Schools In Counties On California’s Watch List To Start Year With Distance Learning

One change Elk Grove teachers like Shelley Walker are implementing is checking in with students more often. Last year she still managed to host one-on-one virtual meetings with students. She says it made a difference. Now the district plans to implement more scheduled live teaching.

“We’ll have set times we’re going to interact with our students,” Walker said. “I think that’s going to be very helpful.”

Teachers in the area’s largest district are undergoing special training to adapt better to the new virtual world.

“It will definitely look different,” Walker said. “But I’m still excited because it’s the kids. It’s about the kids.”

San Juan Unified has a number of planned improvements, too. One being consistency and making sure all families and classrooms are using the same online tools, like Google Classroom.

Part of Sacramento City Unified’s plan is to work in weekly communication with families on student progress. Stockton Unified told CBS13 they’re still working out the final details.

All districts, though, must follow new state standards, which challenge all schools to treat distance learning curriculum like what students would get in the classroom.

One other major goal for all districts is to make sure kids are physically connected, too. That means updating Chromebooks and making sure every student has access to the internet.

READ: State Working To Get 700,000 Laptops To Students Who Need Them

Though with all these additions, Singleteary said, she’s still not holding her breath.

“If you don’t have an extremely motivated coupled with a home that supports them,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult for a lot of other children.”

But the hope is kids won’t have to rely as much on family and to build a better foundation for the next time students can hit the books together, again.

Heather Janssen

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