LAS CRUCES – A week after classes began on Aug. 12, Las Cruces Public Schools continues to offer technological support to parents, teachers and students who are adjusting to the new online learning environment.
With more than 24,000 students enrolled and 1,400 teachers employed by the district, Josh Silver, director of online teaching and learning, has been busy trying to ease the transition into the beginning of the year.
“Making sure students can get logged in and that families have resources that they need; that first step is very, very important,” Silver said. “(We’re) setting that foundation for the school year.”
At this point, families are still changing schedules, getting resources and figuring out how to use the new system of Canvas — the learning platform that LCPS is using for all online instruction. Silver said that these rocky transitions aren’t uncommon for the beginning of a new school year.
“We’re seeing a lot of the same start-of-school-year sort of shuffling that always happens,” Silver said. “It’s just a new shuffling for everyone. We’re not in person to be able to resolve some of those things. Everything happens over phone and email, and those are communication hurdles for everybody on both sides.”
Silver said the difference this year stems from trying to determine which issues are normal for the start of the year and which are broader technological challenges.
He said the real transition from getting students set up to beginning to teach them content is happening this week.
Liz Baca, first-grade teacher at East Picacho Elementary, has been working on that transition herself. On Thursday during her daily direct instruction period, she and her students worked on math for the first time this year.
“My biggest challenges are trying to make sure that all the students are able to log in when they need to, are able to access Canvas, and then making sure that the families have the internet access and the devices that are working properly,” Baca said. “Some of the families are getting a little frustrated with trying to log them in.”
Baca said that keeping her 6- and 7-year-old students engaged during direct instruction is going to require a lot of creativity on her part and also encouragement from parents. Not only will young students need help getting excited to learn virtually, they will also need that technical support from parents and teachers, according to Baca.
Baca has been keeping close contact with the parents of her students through texts and phone calls to support them during the beginning of online learning.
On top of teaching first grade, she also volunteered to be a Canvas Captain, which is a teacher designated to support fellow teachers and families with Canvas and other aspects of online learning. According to Silver, every building in every school has a Canvas Captain.
Silver said there is a whole network of help that students and parents can reach out to for assistance at the school: teachers, school Canvas Captains, principals, school technology departments.
Parents and teachers can also access support at the district level.
Mindy Tapia, an elementary English language arts content specialist at the Teaching and Learning Center, supports teachers and schools with instruction and professional development. With the transition to online learning, Tapia has been hosting mutiple Zoom calls daily to offer advice and answer questions teachers have about online instruction.
“Luckily, LCPS has been really good about creating a lot of different support for teachers,” Tapia said.
She said she’s gotten a lot of calls from teachers about parents struggling to log on to Canvas. Sometimes the fix is as simple as typing the correct password or using a different internet browser.
“Most of the issues that we’ve assisted parents with have been resolved very quickly,” Tapia said.
Tapia said that every day it gets a little easier. She sees her own children who attend LCPS connecting with their teachers and classmates virtually.
“Our teachers have been working really, really hard to make sure that our students are going to get what they need,” Tapia said. “Each day there are fewer and fewer glitches, and I think that has to do with the idea that there are so many contacts out there for teachers to reach out to and help.”
For more information on Canvas and LCPS help, visit https://sites.google.com/lcpsmail.org/canvas-guides-portal/home
Miranda Cyr, a Report for America corps member, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA
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