Many Americans are still worried & torn about whether to send their kids to school (if the schools in their area are open for in-person attendance). Many school districts are still wringing their hands about how to keep everyone safe and keep their funding.*
I understand the intricate connection of dilemmas here:
We recognize that the children are our future and we want what is best for them.
We, as a society, have a commitment to educate our children for leadership and citizenship.
We, as members of a free and democratic republic, want to prepare our children for life. We want them to learn crucial social and communication skills.
We recognize that many households do not have a stay-at-home parent who can supervise remote learning — of particular concern for earlier grades and kids with learning or emotional challenges.
We want to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible in as many ways as possible.
We want to protect the health and well-being of students, teachers, and staff as much as we possibly can.
- In every state of the Union, COVID case incidence, hospitalizations, and/or deaths are on the rise.
- There is evidence from other countries (particularly ample press from Israel) and from some U.S. school districts (Cherokee County, Georgia, and others) that have opened up already, that positive cases among students show up quickly and that students, particularly those without symptoms, readily transmit the virus to adults in their worlds.
- In terms of success stories, schools in other nations that have managed to avoid spreading the disease practice strict discipline, universal masking, social distancing, and other activities. Due to decades of repetitive reductions in funding for public education, most U.S. school districts do not have resources to implement these kinds of robust measures – at least not in the short term.
- WE KNOW that individuals of ANY AGE can carry and transmit the virus without manifesting symptoms of any sort.
- WE KNOW that individuals can transmit the virus BEFORE they test positive.
SO – WHAT TO DO (for the majority of us who do not live in COVID-free zones) ??
This is not rocket science.
WE MUST FIGURE OUT A REMOTE LEARNING OPTION FOR EVERYONE!!
Until we have a vaccine, we must set up education to work remotely.
Opening schools and universities for universal in-person learning is the equivalent of daily sending everyone involved into a combat zone. DAILY.
In these COVID battle zones, students and staff will, of necessity, focus huge parts of their attention on how to stay safe. The logistics of following protocols and hygiene practices are DEFINITELY going to interfere with everyone’s abilities to focus on learning and teaching.
If learning anything other than how to keep your hands clean is on the agenda — everyone should STOP right this minute. STOP wasting energy trying to return to some semblance of normal.
POSTPONE the start of school if you don’t have a COMPLETELY SAFE local action plan in place.
START leveraging all allies in your school district & community to figure out how to provide remote education – at least in part – to all students.
EVERY School District: Decide NOW to do everything you possibly can remotely. This includes instruction, interaction, collaboration, food distribution, internet connectivity, technology, evaluation, mediation for challenges, and so forth.
THIS IS HARD WORK!
- Yes, it will NOT be ideal for most people.
- Yes, it will be DIFFICULT to accomplish.
- Yes, there will be hiccups.
- Yes, everyone has a great deal to learn.
- But that’s the thing – it’s a great moment for EDUCATION. This moment in history is exactly the kind of scenario we are, ultimately, training our children for.
THIS IS THE ONLY LOVING, CARING, RESPONSIBLE SOLUTION for most school districts.
WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!!!
THERE IS NO REASON to send students, teachers, staff – and by extension all of their parents, children, and relatives – into a COVID infection zone every day.
We CAN do this.