States, school districts and families are making choices and, in every instance, remote learning will be key in 2020-2021
Next week, my daughter will start her senior year of high school. We are looking forward to something that resembles some sense of normalcy because, like many families, life since the onset of the Coronavirus has been a lot like a wild roller coaster ride. Her education will look different this year, however and it will continue to be dependent upon many factors.
Every industry on every continent has been impacted by the pandemic. Healthcare immediately swung into emergent mode, enterprises shifted nearly all employees into remote work and we’re all sad about what has happened in the restaurant, hospitality and tourism sectors. Likewise, everyone who has kids or serves the educational needs of kids has also felt the pressure of the pandemic. Learning hasn’t looked the same for most since March and chances are good the impact on our country’s kids will be significant.
In our state, the start of the 2020-2021 school year has gone through many reiterations. My daughter’s school district, the second largest in the state with 46,000 students, will start the 2020-2021 school year fully online on August 5. Over the summer, parents and educators heard several different plans for opening schools. In and amongst more school district emails seeking input from parents than I could keep up with and our Governor making executive orders and then modifying them as our COVID-19 cases climbed, the decision today rests largely with individual choice.
After another recent reversal, our state leaders abandoned a state-wide, in-person start date. Instead, individual school districts will decide when in-person learning will start for their students. And, in my daughter’s district, families are given the choice of instruction: fully online, fully in-person or in combination of the two under a hybrid approach. Many questions about the differences among those delivery options continue but families are making choices they feel are best for them.
School districts choose when on-site learning starts. Families decide how their students will participate – fully online, fully in-person or with a hybrid approach.
One requirement remains, however. Schools must open as per their normal calendar with remote learning and provide some sort of on-site learning for the families who want it. To ensure these new requirements are followed, the state has chosen to include a 5% boost in funding for schools that have an in-person option. In other words, schools will receive an added $265 per student with the availability of in-person instruction. The added aid comes from the state’s share of the federal CARES Act.
The chaos within the K-12 education system created by the Coronavirus is being played out in every state across the country. Seemingly, no two responses are the same and likewise, the ways in which our kids will learn will look very different. Only time will tell how this impacts their ability to excel long-term.
One thing is certain, however. The Coronavirus rages on which means an answer for our students today may not necessarily mean that the same answer will apply tomorrow. While circumstances evolve and the debate for how to educate wages on, our kids will be stuck in the middle if we aren’t careful.
To level the playing field and be prepared for whatever comes our way, quality remote learning is more important today than ever. No matter what state you reside in or which district your kids are enrolled in, technology plays a critical role in maintaining a smooth path for continued learning amidst turmoil caused by continued uncertainty. Schools that didn’t provide laptops, tablets, or connectivity to students who needed them before now must. It’s very likely that at some point, they will be learning from home. Be it in a full-time capacity or in a hybrid model.
For schools to better manage the budget this resourcing requires and protect the students who use them, the district needs an undeletable tether to every school-owned device. A persistent connection means the device may be found if its lost or stolen. It also gives administrators and educators visibility into which learning management systems are being used and how, whether or not security applications are working, and guards against students visiting harmful websites.
Last March, when my daughter moved to learn from home, her experience was less than stellar. There’s no blame; the shift was sudden and no one was prepared for it. Now more than four months into this global health crisis however, we can no longer lean on the element of surprise. It’s time to ensure our kids have learning opportunities that, while certainly not the same, are at least equal to what they can get in the classroom.