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VVUHSD staff, students begin digital instruction and activities

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — Amid a seven-week closure forced by the COVID-19 outbreak, Victor Valley  Union High School District students, staff and families are making a virtual return to school this week.

VVUHSD joined all local districts in closing its doors until at least early May, but instruction is set to resume via distance learning. Meanwhile, principals are keeping up high school traditions such as spirit weeks, student activities and celebrating college admissions — albeit in the online realm.

“Our district and community are facing an unprecedented challenge,” VVUHSD Superintendent Dr. Ron Williams said. “Our staff has done a tremendous job adapting the situation and preparing to offer distance learning to our students. We are working through this together as a community.”

The district began surveying students and parents on their technology needs before the closure began. District staff handed out Chromebooks last week to families who did not have a device available in their homes as they prepare for the distance learning program, which began Tuesday, March 31.

VVUHSD technology staff handed out nearly 400 Chromebooks last week and is handing out hundreds more this week, while also finding connectivity solutions for those without Internet access. Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Dr. Fal Asrani said the process has been “seamless” so far. The district is handling more than 2,000 requests for Chromebooks.

Meanwhile, principals at VVUHSD’s eight schools are finding ways to make student life more engaging during the closure. Victor Valley High School Principal Nancy Noyer held a “digital spirit week” last week and has started another one for this week, encouraging students to participate in themed dress days and other activities through social media. Since the school can’t give out prizes for spirit week activities, they’ll be giving out e-gift cards donated by staff, Noyer said.  

“Students are wanting to do things their friends are doing, and the fun of it is they’re doing it together,” Noyer said.

Other schools in the district are planning spirit weeks and other ways for students to connect digitally, with Silverado High kicking off its digital spirit week now and other schools planning theirs in the coming weeks. 

At University Prep, there is a longstanding tradition of announcing a student’s college acceptance over the intercom at school. Principal Valerie Hatcher adapted this tradition so that each new college acceptance will be sent out to the school community electronically for the time being. 

“It’s a way to keep a sense of continuity and to recognize them for their accomplishments,” Hatcher said.

With extracurricular activities canceled or postponed indefinitely, schools are planning a number of possible ways for students to stay connected with each other. Staff members say that’s the thing students may miss the most during the closure. 

“The seniors’ year was unexpectedly snatched away from them,” said Shannen Avila, a VVHS teacher who is this year’s senior class adviser. “I want them to know that they are valued and respected. They deserve to have memories created in spite of COVID-19.”

The school is exploring ways to have virtual movie nights utilizing technology such as Netflix’s “Party” feature. Noyer said the school’s students, such as senior Edward Fuentes, have been suggesting ideas to staff.

“How we stay connected isn’t just the physical building,” Noyer said. “We are asking the questions, What makes you connect and bond at your school, and how can you recreate that when you’re not in the same physical space?”

VVUHSD also provides meal pickup service at its school sites (with the exception of Goodwill High) from 10 a.m. to noon each weekday, and from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at El Mirage Elementary School. The district is looking at the possibility of extending the hours of meal pickup. Parents and students can check for updates and resources.

(Pictured: A staff member assists a VVUHSD student checking out a Chromebook from the district last week. The district is providing more than 2,000 Chromebooks to students who need connected devices for distance learning.)
(Pictured: A staff member assists a VVUHSD student checking out a Chromebook from the district last week. The district is providing more than 2,000 Chromebooks to students who need connected devices for distance learning.)

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