Distance learning with a twist on first day of school in Riverside

It's the first day of school in the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD).

We all can probably remember back to how exciting the first days of school were when we were kids, but I can't remember ever saying anything to a principal or teacher like what 8-year-old Alex Florentine told Pechappa Elementary School Principal Erica Square.

Alex Florentine: “I was worried about you."
Principal Erica Square: You were worried about me?
Alex Florentine: "Yeah.”
Erica Square: “That touched my heart." 

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Florentine, his parents and younger sister were at the school to pick up a computer and wifi hotspot to use for distance learning. Those sweet words, "I was worried about you," were just five of many the principal heard on this first day of school.

The first phase of getting back into the new school year was to set the stage …so to speak.

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The idea was for kids watching on computers at home to feel like they were seeing the teacher in the front of the empty classrooms Almost like a set in a play Square says teachers had all the trappings of the front of a classroom behind them... even those remotely working from home. 

Says Square, “Our teachers are trying to create as much normalcy as possible."

For many, though, the pandemic is getting old.

Ginny Morris has four kids distance learning.

Three of them are triplets. She says she is exhausted from everything pandemic-related and just having all of those kids at home. 

Let’s not forget it’s been tough on students like Alex Florentine who would rather be in school with his friends.

He says he misses them. 

And teachers haven't had it easy either. Special education teacher Giovanni Ortiz says he was moved by something that happened with a young student when he started teaching his first lesson. Ortiz says, "he started crying."

Maybe it was anxiety says Ortiz, or maybe he was just "glad to see me."