Standing in front of her living room fireplace, early Monday morning Hartford’s Kennelly School principal addressed her students.
“Hello Kennelly ‘Bees.’ Welcome to day one of distance learning. So happy that we are all back together again,” said June Cahill.
For the first time since March 13, Hartford Public Schools were back in session, virtually. Using distance learning, teachers and principals like Cahill addressed their students through videos from their own homes.
“We’re gonna start today the same way we start every day, with the pledge of allegiance,” Cahill said while panning her hand-held video camera toward a small American Flag mounted on the fireplace mantle.
Cahill is among the many educators around the state adapting to distance learning.
Hartford Schools officials said a task force was assembled 12 days ago to conceive a distance learning plan.
Now 42 Hartford schools and approximately 19,000 Hartford students are all taking on an unprecedented challenge.
“It’s completely redefining our entire operation,” said Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Leslie Torres-Rodriguez.
Lessons are now being taught in a number of ways with the internet being the ideal teaching tool.
Sitting at her kitchen table, middle school teacher Ashley Bonet set up a science experiment she demonstrated for her class through streaming video.
“While it’s bubbling, I really encourage you to make some observations and to jot down questions,” she said while dropping a tablet in a solution, watching it fizz inside a clear glass bottle.
But technology is limited and not every student has access. The city distributed 10,000 devices it possessed, but that wasn’t nearly enough.
“We have completely distributed our entire inventory of electronic devices to our students and yet half of our students remain without a technology device,” explained Torres-Rodriguez.
For students without access, printed materials are being distributed.
Although the state has acquired 60,000 new laptops, Hartford Schools say they’ve received none so far, a situation it would like to rectify.
“I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that each and every one of our students has access to a technology device,” added Torres-Rodriguez.
The superintendent says the laptops the state has acquired are targeted for cities like Hartford. She explains there are plans are in place to get some of them and says she is determined to expedite that process.