VIDEO: What distance teaching looks like at El Camino Real Charter High

WOODLAND HILLS >> Eric Choi walked through an empty hallway Thursday morning, Aug. 13, on the way to an empty classroom to teach ninth-grade English.

Usually, the noise of teenage laughter and conversation is the backdrop to Choi’s walk. For now, he’ll have to get used to the silence as El Camino Real Charter High returns to distance learning to start the fall semester.

“It’s the new norm,” Choi said through his face mask.

The school has 156 certificated personnel, according to school executive director David Hussey, who can be on campus at any time to instruct from a classroom if they choose.

Hussey — and educators around the region — are keeping a watchful eye on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, which states no school can return students to campus until the county is off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days.

“We’re hoping the county comes off the watchlist so we can bring back students in a hybrid model,” Hussey said. “English learners, homeless and foster students and students with special needs would be the first to get back onto campus.”

Hussey says those students make up 13-14%of the student body.

After a quick temperature check at the entrance to the school, Choi heads to classroom H3. He sits in a chair with two computers and a large touch-screen Promethean board, which Choi describes as a “giant iPad.”

When all his devices are switched on, he waits for students to join class via their school laptop. The school distributed 3,600 of the devices to students.

“The laptops are truly work devices,” Choi explained. “All the activity is monitored and can be tracked by the school. I can see if a student is online or not.”

The students have the option to show their face via webcam, but most choose not to, which leaves Choi instructing to three screens with nothing more than digital boxes and names staring back at him.

“It’s challenging,” said Choi. “I feel like I’m just speaking to myself the whole day. There’s very little engagement, and I can’t really feel the room to see if material is sinking in. There’s no guarantee that a student is paying attention.”

Choi, 41, is a 1997 El Camino Real graduate and has been teaching at the school since 2003. He became the girls soccer varsity coach in 2008 and has won seven City titles since them.

As a championship-level coach, he brings that same approach to the classroom, setting up building blocks for success even during unprecedented times in education.

“It’s only been four days, it’s gone well so far, but a month from now this could get monotonous,” Choi said. “It’s my job to change it up and keep the students engaged. I haven’t really gotten into English material yet.”

Choi said his first assignment this week was a personal questionnaire so he can get to know some of his students, especially his freshman class he’s never met. The assignment requires a picture upload of the student’s face, so he can identify them as if they were all in the classroom.

Teachers who also serve as sports team coaches are frequently in contact with their players, but there’s no guarantee that even practice can resume anytime soon.

Hussey is hopeful that student-athletes might be able to practice sometime this semester if they can adhere to the California Department of Health’s guidelines, which are allowing youth sports activities, but with physical distant parameters, face masks and shared equipment protocols.

“Hopefully by October,” Hussey said.

Category Latest Posts