Online learning ramps up across Bay Area, despite bumpy start

Thousands of students and teachers logged on Monday and, at times, overwhelmed platforms used for virtual learning in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

“This is a global issue with Microsoft as districts across the country are now logging on to this digital platform,” wrote Isabel Mascarenas, spokesperson for the Pinellas County School District. 

Hillsborough Schools reported similar trouble with the Edsy platform used by that district. 

In both districts, Monday was the first day of graded lessons following a week of gearing up. Neither district could say how many students connected on the first day. 

As the state tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, school districts loaned thousands of computers to students who didn’t have one at home. But preliminary reports indicated a significant number of absences. 

“Right now I have 10 of my 18 students that have signed on that have started on the assignments and are getting comfortable with the platform,” said Gabrielle Cinelli, a fourth grade teacher at Azalea Elementary School. “We have some other interfaces we can use to reach out to parents that might be having a difficult time getting their kids started.”

David Mann, a theatre teacher at Tampa Prep, convened a class of 25 high school students using the popular meeting platform Zoom. “With a large class, people turn into postage stamps, so the breakout rooms I think are very useful this way.”

Teachers and students tuned and refined their computer connections Monday.

“We’re jumping in and learning new things just by trying it out,” said Cinelli.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids because they’re going to prepare for jobs that haven’t even been created yet, and those will definitely include technology.”

Florida schools were closed until April 15 at the earliest, but the closure will likely be extended.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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