A new school year began in St. Paul on Tuesday with Superintendent Joe Gothard wishing everyone "successful connections" — a nod to the continuation of distance learning in the state's second-largest district.
Everything worked just fine for Paul Hendricks, a fifth-grader at Randolph Heights Elementary, who after participating in a live video conference with his teacher and classmates pulled up a prerecorded spot from physical-education teacher Audra Richards.
To a thumping techno beat, Richards reviewed her summer highlights, which included fishing, hiking, cycling and, finally, getting engaged.
"She had an eventful summer," said Anne Hendricks, who is Paul's mom and was watching alongside him. "We are definitely getting to know a little more about the personal side of the teachers."
Which goes to show that despite a rough spring, distance learning isn't all that bad.
Paul began to think of how he'd complete an assignment calling upon him to look back at his own summer. Baseball was sure to make the cut.
Gothard has promised families an improved "Distance Learning 2.0" with more live instruction than they'd seen in the spring. Next to Paul's iPad, and his Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap, was a printed schedule indicating math would be a daily real-time experience.
In the bedroom next door, his sister Ellen, an eighth-grader at Global Arts Plus, said that she thought the year was off to a better start, too, thanks to a Google Meet session with her teacher and classmates.
The school will be providing a kit with art supplies. Then, she will tune in for live instructions on the projects to be completed.
Playing the flute, however, will be more of a challenge for her when it comes to learning virtually.
Ellen's message to district leaders: Let's get on with a hybrid learning model with at least some in-person instruction.