Just one child appeared on screen in the first online class at a Detroit school on Tuesday, in an acute example of the difficulties classrooms face as they shift to online learning.
First-grade teacher Karlotta Hicks had carefully prepped parents for an 8 a.m. digital return to Winans Academy for Performing Arts, after a monthslong hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Chalkbeat Detroit, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on education.
But on the day, an array of issues affected the pupils in her class, from difficulties with the laptops and pads they were using, to a power cut that had affected some of the homes near the school, Chalkbeat Detroit reported.
Three of the parents in Hicks' class were found to have disconnected phone numbers, Chalkbeat Detroit reported. The only boy who turned up to class on Tuesday also didn't have working audio, the outlet said.
Hicks was forced to reschedule the session for later that day, when numbers improved, with half of Hicks' 14-strong class returning.
"The teachers and I were kind of sad at one point today," Hicks told Chalkbeat Detroit on Tuesday.
"Like, where are the kids?" she said, adding that she had deeply missed the day-to-day contact with her pupils.
Similar problems are being faced nationwide. According to The New York Times, server issues, a website crash and even a cyberattack have been among the barriers to a smooth transition to online learning.
But even before technical problems happen, the uneven way that the pandemic affects families has impacted families' ability to focus on bringing kids back into an educational routine.
During the spring, as job losses and infections hit, online attendance in Detroit was around half on an average week, Chalkbeat Detroit reported.
Winans Academy's principal, James Spruill, told the outlet that parents were finding the transition a struggle.
"Parents told me, 'on the scale of things I'm dealing with, school work is No. 5,'" he said.
One teacher at the Winans Academy also estimated that at least 100 of her friends and family had got sick with COVID-19 during the pandemic, Chalkbeat Detroit reported.
"If we are going through that, who knows what our scholars are going through?" she told the outlet.