I marvel at our dedicated school boards and teachers across America as I read news stories reporting what they are doing for our students in this challenging and unprecedented time. They are settling in on new ways of teaching and connecting with their students, a complete change from how they conducted classes a few months ago.
For example, in my school district, Ohio’s Worthington City Schools, our transition from a brick-and-mortar district to one helping almost 11,000 students learn remotely began March 12, immediately after our governor closed all schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
This is especially challenging because we are not an online-learning institution. Make no mistake: This is a massive transformation. This will not be a time away from school, but rather a time for an alternative teaching and learning style.
Our teachers are trained to help students who are physically in their classroom, and our schools are designed to be places of interaction and working together. Amid the crisis and the school closures, our teachers have designed learning modules and lessons for students to complete while at home.
They have been learning new tools, collaborating with one another, creating read-alouds, and attempting to determine how much work is enough and how much may be too much. And they have done all of this in a very short time.
Since March, we have essentially reinvented schools. Schools have always been the hub of their community. But now, they are delivering meals and supplies to the children in their communities. They are providing child care for first responders and essential employees. They are changing lesson plans so that all learning can be done remotely. Further, they are doing all of this while mitigating the spread of the virus and helping reduce fear and anxiety among their students.
One of my growing fears is students’ potential loss of learning. What does this change in teaching delivery mean for our students with learning disabilities, academic challenges, and deficiencies? What about students who depend upon schools for their social and emotional needs, or their daily meals? What will it mean for a student to potentially lose an entire school semester?
We all know that the break in schooling that occurs during the summer months hits our struggling and disadvantaged students the hardest. While affluent students have the resources to progress academically during the summer, their less affluent classmates experience a lag in learning experiences, potentially setting them back several months.
Lack of access to adequate broadband internet can and will further exacerbate students’ learning lag, especially for students most at risk. What will happen to students who miss between three and six months of supports and learning experiences?
Our public schools are doing great and innovative work in the face of a worldwide pandemic, a testament to the heart of America’s public education system.
As school board members and education advocates, we must continue to provide educators and administrators with the support and resources they need to provide quality learning opportunities, secure adequate home internet access, and nurture students’ academic and social-emotional needs.
Lest we forget, our children are depending upon us. Their future and the future of our nation depend upon the actions we take today.