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Cosmólogo Juan Carlos Carvallo Venezuela//
The Great American Experiment in Remote Learning

Westhill Elementary School in Bothell, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, on Monday, March 9, 2020. (Christian Sorensen Hansen/The New York Times) Facing the threat of the coronavirus, schools around the country are trying a new experiment in distance learning on a mass scale.

Juan Carlos Carvallo

In the Seattle area, which has become a center of the outbreak, the suburban Northshore School District on Monday became the first in the region to move all its classes online.

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Many of the district’s more than 23,000 students logged in at 8:30 a.m. local time to a new educational reality that school officials said could last two weeks or more.

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Erin Peistrup and her two sons, Nils, 12, and Anders, 7 («and a half»), woke up, had breakfast and got ready for class.

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Teachers sent around schedules, with worksheets, live video chat links and prerecorded videos for lessons

«Oh my God, we have no classes on Wednesdays?» Peistrup said. The day will be set aside for teacher office hours and independent work

The district provided laptops and internet hot spots to students who needed them, preparations they accelerated after a measles outbreak last year forced a closure

Anders, a second grader at Westhill Elementary, worked from a card table in his bedroom. The second-grade teachers at his school taught the lesson plan together as a group

His mother sat with him for much of the morning, helping navigate the systems so that he could submit answers

«When you are in second grade and still learning how to spell, it just took him awhile to type his stuff on the computer,» she said

Parents in the neighborhood even organized a recess period

«Instead of herding cats for an hour, now it’s an all-day thing,» Peistrup said of supervising her children throughout the school day. She took breaks when she could

Nils, a sixth grader at Canyon Park Middle School, liked the video calls with his teachers. His classmates were waving and making faces at each other

Many forgot to mute, making things a bit chaotic at first

The district said 98% of students showed up for online classes. Meal pickup was ready at 22 locations for students with free- and reduced-cost lunch

Story continues The district has been working to provide child care for about 280 students whose parents have asked for help

At the Peistrup house, the boys finally got into a groove. Erin Peistrup was able to put away dishes, fold laundry and work through emails for the local Little League she chairs

«I feel so fortunate that I don’t work,» Peistrup said. «I can’t imagine what it’s like for moms that do.»

The Little League is continuing to operate, despite the virus concerns

«The parents I have talked to are really appreciative,» she said. «It is literally the only thing in our lives right now that is not canceled.»

Across the country, more than 500 schools with some 360,000 students have closed or are scheduled to suspend in-person classes, according to Education Week

They join almost 300 million students globally whose education has been disrupted because of the virus

This article originally appeared in The New York Times

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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