Surviving the Aftermath of COVID-19: Continued Caution Ahead
There is no magic bullet for schools to successfully navigate the aftermath of COVID-19. Even our nation’s best education minds are feeling their way through, combining technology with a generous dose of caution as they plan their Autumn returns. In this episode of the Learning Counsel’s virtual discussion series, top education leaders are asking the right questions to keep our children safe as they keep learning moving forward.
According to LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel, “Feedback from Learning Counsel research and all of our discussions with districts nationwide has been showing the number one concern among schools right now is the physical environment safety protocols.
“There are also a lot of kids that are AWOL because they literally have no Internet access. And then actually getting organized not only with your systems but your physical environment. The system side is the most complex. There are so many schools that have joined the digital transition frame and they're just not certain of what's going on, both with digital content site repositories as well as the learning management space, and then they're worried about potential budget cuts. They don't know if the market's going to bounce back. They're concerned about their portion of the CARES Act. They're also concerned about getting students and parents back to work or back to school because some surveys out there indicate 40 percent of America is looking at maybe just staying out. They don't want their asymptomatic children to go back to school and come back and bring COVID-19 back to their family. So there are a lot of concerns. We think we can reopen our schools, we think we can survive this, but there may be pushback from parents.”
Dr. Tom Palmer is the Superintendent at Peru Central School District in NY. Palmer said, “In New York State, they strongly encouraged the six by six rule, six-foot social distancing. So, we looked at the square footage of our rooms. That means that we'd only have half of our kids come in each day. So, whether we worked in an A-day, B-day cycle or come in two days, take a day off for cleaning and strong disinfecting and then come in Thursday and Friday with the B group or alternate every other day. But we also knew and the implications. How do you have school one day for a family and then the next day they have to find childcare? We're still struggling with that one.”
Dr. Michael Gaskell, Principal at Hammarskjold Middle School, a part of East New Brunswick Public Schools, is experiencing similar concerns. “Now we're bridging the gap with parents. So there was a lot of those components that all tied together. If you think about digital learning, we're relying so much more on parents who are also under tremendous stress and pressure both economically and in terms of, not knowing their own wellness. The frightful situation we came into, this reminds me of the AIDS crisis at least in terms of the general initial fear of the unknown. And so you have families who were very, very scared. So, what will happen looking ahead? Will families feel comfortable sending their kids back to school in the fall?”
As the Peru Central School District planned for the Fall, Dr. Palmer shared some additional insights. “We made sure that every teacher contacted 10 kids per week because the two biggest issues that I had coming forward, especially in the fall is a social emotional component for kids and a remediation piece because I know a lot of our kids were struggling so we needed to make sure and we have some really good agencies in our community that we are still working with; even through this situation have worked really well together.”
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It may be some time before school looks like it once did, and the changes brought about by COVID-19 may change the face of learning forever. As these district leaders talk through their decision-making for the coming Fall term, you’ll gain insight that you can use in your own school or district. One thing is certain, surviving the aftermath will take smart people working together, with grit, determination and perhaps a bit of Duct tape and bailing wire.
About our Sponsor
D2L (Desire2Learn) is the maker of Brightspace, the learning platform for people who care deeply about all students reaching their potential. With Brightspace, full inclusion and equitable access for all learners are realizable goals, even in the aftermath of COVID-19.
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