Weeks of discovery and adaptation to the new situation welcomed students from seven private schools in Quito. In them, since the last days of September, face to face and virtual courses have been organized. In the six rural prosecutors, the majority of students participate. And for those who do not participate, education is done via WhatsApp, printed guides, and messages on TV and radio.
In Einstein, for example, they outfitted classrooms with cameras and an ambient microphone. But when 13% of 480 enrolled students returned to school, they noticed that their peers online had not heard their interventions. Another problem arose when the curtains were removed from the windows, which are kept open to allow air to circulate in the rooms: the infocus projection on the blackboard was lost.
Jorge Grijalva, dean of curriculum and innovation, recounts it. In their plan, they set a maximum of 12 students and a minimum of four in class.
Yolanda Villalba, Zone 9 Under Secretary for Education, comments that teachers, students and parents are getting used to this new context. Teachers have had to rethink the way they teach. In some schools, they have assistant teachers who watch the screen.
Most centers have days from Monday to Friday, even until 3:30 pm In Einstein, preschool and elementary school go out for recess at different times. The others do this at the same time, but keeping a distance when removing the mask and eating. Face-to-face lessons take place from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. On Wednesday, everything is virtual and on that day, the facilities are disinfected.
Grijalva points out that they have found that students with slow learning and socialization problems perform better in virtual classrooms.
In other schools such as the Catholic José Engling, they have organized timetables for teachers to allocate hours to teach exclusively to those who attend and others, with whom they connect with from home, explains Cristina Donoso, academic director. So far this week, 40 students are participating and will complete 172 until Wednesday. Each class will accommodate up to 10 boys.
If a teacher only has virtual lessons, he does not attend the center. And if the schedule is combined and you live in Tumbaco, you go home after the face-to-face session. For the rest, they have set up rooms for virtual connections.
In the teaching-learning process, Donoso points out, there are activities for both modalities: asynchronous activities, which take place on Mondays.
For her virtual lessons with second-grade children, teacher Daniela Vivero uses videos. The inputs, he thinks, help provide the life experience visually.
With the kids going to school, she notes, she does all the work, while with the others, she needs more parental support. For example, at his level, those who come, he takes their hand to guide them in writing.
Gabriela Flores has two children in Engling. On Monday, the second year of high school will be reinstated in person, while the other, the eighth year, will continue virtually. He, his mother says, has become more responsible in this way.
The Quito Undersecretary recalls that schools must offer parents both options. And remember that the pandemic has made it possible for some to provide more support in the learning process of their children. Regarding the UNE’s request that PCR tests be applied to all who return to class, he said: even individuals did not. “We are all jointly responsible, the authorized capacity is 30%.”
Besides Engling and Einstein, these first experiences of a gradual return to Quito live the Pachamama, Alemán, Sek Quito and Los Valles and Emdi schools. In one of them, parents who decided that their children would continue to study online felt that they had been at a disadvantage.
One of the mothers asked the teacher to speak louder. Additionally, he says his second-grader daughter and the other kids who are in virtual mode are raising their hands without being paid attention. They ask that the groups be divided. Another father finds himself in the same situation, who is considering the possibility of changing his daughter’s school.
It is not the same thing to give an online course than a face-to-face course, recalls the director of the Institute of teaching and learning of the USFQ, Claudia Tobar. A virtual program, he explains, requires other elements of attention, is much shorter, and only certain elements of the program are used.
Tobar believes that there should be teachers responsible for online lessons and others for face-to-face lessons, as different skills are required. “Schools will need to choose the best teachers to teach online and face to face.”