Pocket Life September 2020

By Corky Mau

Distant Lessons

How schools meet COVID challenge

Hot August nights morph into cooler September evenings. But lately, residents wrangle with two hot topics—schools reopening and mail delivery problems. Let’s take a look. State coronavirus mandates mean all public and private schools in Pocket and Greenhaven will start the 2020-21 school year with distance learning.

Multiple educational and logistical challenges face our teachers. Schools are using platforms such as Google Classroom, Zoom, Seesaw and Clever to conduct lessons. Teachers accustomed to in-person instruction find they need lots of training. It takes time to create internet-based lesson plans, especially if you’re not familiar with online applications.

Some younger educators such as my neighbor Sara Ruiz are more tech-savvy. Ruiz teaches second grade at Delta Elementary Charter School. She spent the summer preparing lesson plans and attending training sessions. “Last spring, distance learning was a real learning experience,” she says.

Ruiz hopes distance learning will go more smoothly this time. She will conduct online lessons from her classroom, doing weekly virtual check-ins with each student. “I want my students to know we are still one classroom family, regardless if they’re alone at home or together at school,” she says.

Matsuyama Elementary School principal Judy Farina is preparing for in-person instruction when protocols allow it. “We’re planning on a hybrid model,” she says. “Small groups of students will meet on campus for four days, with one day of online instruction. During that home instruction day, the campus will be deep-cleaned.”

Classrooms will be reconfigured. Student desks will be placed 6 feet apart and students will face forward. Students won’t share any materials. There will be frequent hand washing. Every student will have hand sanitizer.

For all families with schoolchildren, resident Cathy Fagunes Palmer offers this advice: “Please offer grace to your child’s teacher and other school personnel during this time. They love your kids and will be doing their absolute best to educate your child.”


Heidii Sanchez has been a special education teacher for more than 20 years. She works at Caroline Wenzel Elementary School. Her students are at the fourth- to sixth-grade age level with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. Most students have physical impairments and intellectual delays. Sanchez depends on her instructional aides and her “classroom grandma”—retired teacher Jean Briggs.

When schools closed in March, Sanchez scrambled to create custom binders for each family. Her students were given computers for distance learning. However, she says, “All my students have fine motor skills challenges. Typing and performing multi-step processes to access online educational programs on a computer is just too hard for them.”

Sanchez can use help to acquire laptops, headphones, printers, a classroom projector and document readers for students. If you’re interested in helping, contact her at heidii-sanchez@scusd.edu.


Is your mail delivered at 9 p.m. instead of 9 a.m.? Do you go days without mail service? It’s not your imagination, mail carriers tell me. They have asked that I not use their names.

The problems result from three key issues, they say. First, the coronavirus has slowed the process. Second, new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy ordered cost-cutting measures in July that slowed delivery. Third, parcels moving through the main distribution center in West Sacramento have almost tripled in volume because more people are ordering goods online.

Workers are calling in sick due to the coronavirus, so there are fewer people to handle the volume. Almost every day, route deliveries have to be adjusted and staff shifted to provide coverage. One carrier says, “Our trucks are filled with more parcels than during the Christmas holidays. The entire system has been overwhelmed since June.” They believe the situation will get worse when election materials are added.

In response, workday hours are being tinkered with. For a while, carriers were told to start their routes later in the morning to give sorters more time. As a result, some were on the streets until 9:30 p.m. At one point, carriers were told to get off the streets by 8 p.m. Undelivered mail was returned to the station to be delivered another day.

“We’re exhausted, working 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week,” one carrier says. “After we finish our own routes, some of us help other carriers. We worry about getting sick because we’re exposed to lots of people.”

Postal workers are striving to keep our lives as normal as possible. Cut them some slack. Show them some love. Know they are doing their best to deliver your mail.

Corky Mau can be reached at corky.sue50@gmail.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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