When Siniya Longino arrived for her first day of in-person eighth grade in San Francisco last week, there was only one other student in the classroom. Everyone else was remote, as were all of her teachers. Siniya logs into Zoom on her laptop from her desk to see them.
“I personally would have preferred to stay at home,” Siniya said. “I just feel like there’s no point.”
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, tens of thousands of middle- and high-school students returned to classrooms last week for what some parents are calling “Zoom in a Room.” The unusual model, in which students sit at desks with laptops learning remotely while an adult supervises them, is the latest twist in the slow reopening of public schools here in the nation’s most populous state.
Although it currently has the lowest per capita Covid-19 rate of any state, California has the highest percentage of school districts still entirely virtual, at nearly 13%, according to the American Enterprise Institute’s Return to Learn tracker. The nationwide rate is 4%.
One large California school district, Santa Ana, isn’t opening at all this school year. And while many students across the nation are using computers at least some of the time, the “Zoom in a Room” format in L.A. and San Francisco isn’t common, according to education researchers.
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