Updated: May 21, 2020 07:01 PM
Created: May 17, 2020 11:22 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- For thousands of families across the state, their lives were shaken up when the coronavirus made its way into Minnesota.
Parents transitioned to working from home, schools cleared out and educators and their students developed a new way of learning. We begin our week long series -- an ABC 6 New joint reporting project with the Post Bulletin.
"The transition was particularly difficult," said Lap Nyugen, a senior at John Marshall High School.
"Day 1, I did a trial run of distance learning with my teachers and it was quite smooth," said Nguyen. Lap says journaling his experience helps to process the reality.
Governor Tim Walz announced the closure of schools across the state in March including Rochester Public Schools. Lap joins thousands of other students across the region learning from home.
"That made it real when he made the official announcement that we were going to be doing distance learning," said Superintendent Michael Munoz. The Rochester Public School District was given eight days to come up with a distance learning plan to meet the needs of 18,000 K-12 students.
"The number one priority is relationships and making sure our students and families are OK," said Munoz.
Families like the Nguyen's, where English is the second language.
"Day 30, I've been trying to keep up with assignments, but the distractions are still real," said Nguyen reading an excerpt of his journal.
Taking on an even bigger assignment at home helping his parents teach his 9-year-old brother Benson, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
"The biggest concern and it goes to all immigrant families is being able to teach context that is not in a language they are familiar with," said Nguyen.
Both of his parents speak very little English. Lap acting as our translator, we break the ice by sharing a laugh about mom's added role.
"It has been very busy, very busy," said Nguyen as the family breaks into a chuckle.
He added,"she was worried it would not be to the same standards because teachers are trained and they have the creativity to do the projects to help kids learn."
A concern, another mother across town wasn't too worried about with her kids.
"I feel like we're in that sweet spot where they are fairly self-sufficient most of the time," said Amy Nelson. The family of four have spent the past two months essentially together.
"We're really lucky because we all get a long pretty well," laughed Nelson.
Mom and dad working from home and 14-year-old Claire and 12-year-old Trygve doing school work from the same dining table.
"For our life to go from 60 to 0 in just a couple of days was kind of crazy," said Nelson.
Church gatherings to extra curricular activities like volleyball and soccer, even field trips to Washington D.C., all canceled.
"I think people underestimate how lonely it can be even though you're in a house with three other people," said Nelson. As the Director of Faith Development at First Unitarian Universalist Church, she says every Monday is new routine as they adapt to the changes.
"Each of the four of us have had our days like the bad days, but so far it hasn't been all four of us on the same day," she said.
Nelson says those "bad days" are OK.
"This is new, they may be scared or worried about how does this work and can I do this?" said Munoz. District leaders and teachers can relate to families and the struggles they face.
"It's like building that plane as you're up on the air," said Munoz.
The district navigating a virtual curriculum as they go. "We wanted to do our best to stay at that quality level of education, and i'm not going to lie to you, I know it's not at the same level, it's just not possible to do," said Munoz.
Because each household and each family dynamic is different.
"Day 44, we're nearing the two month mark and things have been flowing quite smoothly, there's no more school for the rest of the year and that's kind of sad," said Nguyen as he takes us inside his world through this journal entries.
Despite missing major milestones like prom and graduation, Lap says it's simply the classroom environment that he misses the most.
"Having that social interaction is critical for students to be able to learn and to enjoy what they're learning," he said.
And perhaps the most important lesson to be learned for every student during this pandemic, can't be taught from any computer.
"Day 50, I just hope there is going to be a graduation, we picked up our cap and gowns today, so heres to hoping," said Nguyen.
Hoping with just a few weeks left to distance learning he can say goodbye to the his fellow classmates and teachers in person.
"I hope I can just start a new chapter of my life with a sense of normalcy."
A gift, every student and teacher deserves.
School districts across our area have not finalized graduation plans just yet, but many say they plan to honor their class of 2020. As for Lap, he is excited to start at Harvard University in the fall.
You will find deeper coverage of this story at postbulletin.com and in Monday's print edition of the Post Bulletin. Tune in all week for our "School At Home" series on distance learning.
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