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The best (and worst) parts of distance learning during the coronavirus crisis

Joachim (L), 8, and Colin, 10, whose school was closed following the Coronavirus outbreak, do school exercises at home with their dad Pierre-Yves in Washington.ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I say Providence College’s Jack Dugan got robbed of the Hobey Baker Award. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 73 coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday, and there were 2,976 confirmed cases. There were 197 residents in the hospital, and 48 were in intensive care. There were 19,649 negative tests.


Rhode Island kicked off its fourth week of mandatory distance learning for students on Monday, and Governor Gina Raimondo said she is planning to make another announcement on schools later in the week.

So how’s it going?

A few weeks ago, we asked six Rhode Map readers to describe the first day of online learning. I reached back out to them over the weekend to ask them to explain the best and most frustrating parts of the new version of school.

These responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Ramona Santos

Providence parent (middle)

“If I am going to be honest, it is hard for me to find a good thing about distance learning. I think that’s because of the abrupt way in which it was launched. That’s not anyone’s fault, I’d add. I guess in a perfect world, distance learning could help middle school students to start working more independently as they transition to high school.”

Most frustrating: “My daughter wanted to share this and I truly feel it reflects some of the struggles many of us are facing: ‘As a kid with ADHD, sitting in a place for hours is not cool.’”


Kristen Lage

Warwick parent (elementary)

Best part: "We are starting to find our groove! Typically, kids spend six or seven hours per day at school, but with distance learning, the school day is much shorter. At first, this left my husband and I with an uneasy feeling in regards to whether or not our daughter was getting the same level of education. As we started to navigate these uncharted waters, we quickly learned that we needed to adjust our own expectations. Most children are agile and resilient; it’s the adults that sometimes have trouble adapting to change.”

Most frustrating: “Things are taught differently now, compared to 30 years ago when I was in second grade. Trying to learn the new teaching methods and executing on them properly has been one of the biggest challenges.”

Jennifer Berrio-Ortiz

Providence parent (K-12 charter)

Best part: “With the technology that we have now, the kids can Zoom, Google Classroom, and ClassDojo and not miss a beat with their teachers and lessons.”

Most frustrating: “I am worried that my child will become anti-social. School was a place for him to build other relationships.”

Suzanne Da Silva Jerzyk

Cranston parent & teacher

Best part: “The best thing about distance learning is that I feel as if my communication with parents has increased tenfold.”

Most frustrating: “The most frustrating thing about distance learning is finding the balance between being there for my school kids and my own kids. It’s a delicate balance, which I have yet to master.”


Jeremy Chiappetta

Blackstone Valley Prep – CEO

Best part: “The best thing at BVP right now is the deep and personal connections that adults are having with individual students and families. We start each school year with a one-on-one teacher-family meeting. We are reaping the rewards of strong family relationships in this really challenging time. And, in some ways we are learning more about our students as individuals than we have ever known.”

Most frustrating: “Far worse than frustrating, the most devastating thing that we are facing as a community right now is loss. We have families who are experiencing tremendous challenges, from the loss of livelihoods to the loss of life of loved ones. And grieving on Zoom or Google Hangout is far from sufficient. The toll this is taking on our families and our staff is incredible. If you know someone who needs help, please reach out to Rhode Island Kids Link at 855-543-5465.”

Jeannine Nota-Masse

Cranston superintendent

Best part: "The best thing about it has been the opportunity for students to log on and do their work whenever they are able. In families where children are sharing a device, or parents aren’t able to assist until after they’re done with their work, or where high school students are working or caring for younger siblings, the time flexibility has been beneficial. A child can log in outside of the “virtual” school day if needed, and still access assignments. Some teachers have decided to have classes later for older students who have other obligations during the day.”


Most frustrating: “The most frustrating thing has been finding the perfect balance of assignments, assessments and homework. We have tweaked our middle and high schools’ schedules to make sure teachers and students are getting the necessary information and instruction without it being overwhelming for anyone. Elementary students and their teachers have a different schedule, which can also be overwhelming.”


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you've got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what's happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

  • Governor Raimondo’s daily update on the coronavirus is at 1 p.m.
  • US Representative David Cicilline is hosting a telephone town hall for seniors at 2 p.m. that will focus on how to access benefits from the stimulus package. The call-in number is 855-962-1055.
  • At noon today, Brown University is hosting a live panel discussion on the coronavirus.
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Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you this afternoon.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.