First day of school, back to distance learning for many in the Bay Area

Monday was the first day back to school for tens of thousands of kids around the Bay. Back to school this year means back to sitting in front of a computer monitor, but districts are saying that doesn't take away from the importance of the first day of school, and restoring a sense of normalcy.

In the East Bay, Berkeley schools and West Contra Costa County schools started class Monday morning. The district's Superintendent Matthew Duffy, says considering all the challenges he's happy the school year is underway. "It is an exciting day, butterflies in the stomach," said Superintendent Duff. "To open the school district and the year for our 30,000 students."

A major focus was on making sure all students have the opportunity to learn this year. "We really build this plan with a strong equity lens, that's why we have daily office hours to connect with students who really need those office hours," said Superintendent Duffy.

While students are learning remotely, the district is already working on developing learning hubs, the district's plans for when it is safe enough to begin educating students face to face, starting with the most vulnerable.

"So, we know there will be a day when all 30,000 students will be able to come back but if we can get some student in earlier we really want to bring our students who have higher needs, who may not be as successful in the distance learning world," said Superintendent Duffy.

Across the Bay although there was no school bell as South San Francisco and San Francisco students started class. San Francisco's more than 50,000 students settled in for a day of learning at their keyboards. "We need you engaged, and we need you taking part," said Dr. Vincent Matthews, Superintendent San Francisco School District.

"So, absolutely, we are taking attendance. But, we're also making sure that we have activities that will keep you engaged."

San Francisco schools said it learned a lot from distance learning in the Spring and is making sure that each school's sense of community is preserved, and that students are getting time to interact with educators and their fellow students.     

The district also says it has a commitment to making sure that all students have access to learning and so far has made more than 23,000 devices available to students who need them. "So, we're giving our more devices to younger student," said Superintendent Matthews. "Plus there are students we didn't hit in the Spring, and we're making sure we're catching up."

San Francisco says it is also working on developing plans to resume in class learning when it is safe to do so.