As most educators – and parents – transition to a “summer” that feels only marginally different than past three months, many are asking, can schools open in the fall?
As both a parent and an educator, I am asking can schools open in the fall?
- I want to go back to school, but I want to be safe.
- I want to rest this summer, but I am looking ahead.
- I want to prepare for the fall, but right now it’s a moving target.
- I want to see our students, but not just 12 of them on an odd Tuesday.
- I want my colleagues to be acknowledged for the herculean task of both launching an online curriculum from scratch while simultaneously chasing hundreds of kids through their laptops and cell phones, but you are assuming they have been on some sort extended spring break in the location of their Zoom background photo.
- I want to believe in our phenomenal school custodial staff, but they are already being pushed to the brink with the few staff and students on campus now.
- I want to believe that students will wear masks, but I know that they have trouble wearing goggles for a single science lab- much less a school day.
- I want to believe that there will be a vaccine soon, but I know it will take months to achieve herd immunity.
Can schools open in the fall?
- I want to send my own children to school, but don’t want to risk the health of their grandmother who lives with us.
- I want to keep my own children home from school, but I feel challenged at juggling them with our work- and sad for their loss of the “traditional” school experience.
- I want to have the traditional school experience back- it is all I’ve known for decades, but I know that it was not always the “good” old days- and will now simply be the old days.
- I want to start the school year in person, but not if it means another frantic mid-semester shut down when the likely “second wave” hits.
- I want to focus on the essentials of education, but worry that monitoring hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will distract from that unnecessarily.
- I want to bring students together in online forums, but know that to truly do this we must close the digital divide.
- I want to engage our parents on technology- so they no longer need to take a day off work and 3 busses to get to a meeting, but know that this will take a further investment in them and their training.
- I want to make my 23rd first day of high school (27 if you count my own!) the same as the last 22, but know that the world has changed under our feet.
So I ask that school leaders act boldly- and safely- by supporting a distance learning model so that schools can open virtually in the fall.
School staff needs time – albeit mostly unpaid time- this summer to wrestle with the challenges of streamlining our curriculum, refining our online practices, and designing communication plans to engage our students.
If, miraculously, the health crisis we find ourselves in now abates, then I assert that a team of educators can open a “traditional” school year in a heartbeat, but none of us has the experience of kicking off a school year remotely. We need time to process and plan in order to pull this off.
And then there’s the “what if’s.”
- What if it’s not “can schools open in the fall”, but what if keeping schools closed can allow us to overhaul an education system in great need of repair?
- What if we can replace busy work with authentic assessments?
- What if we can differentiate our curriculum in a way that better supports all our learners?
- What if we can find a way to have staff voluntarily host pods of 12 students who need a safe and consistent place to work in one of our many district properties?
- What if we can bring real, consistent internet access to our most under-served communities?
- What if we can rethink school in a way that values all our students?
- What if we can create community across zip codes?
- What if we can measure education by something more meaningful than instructional minutes, seat time and contractual hours?
What if we can be both bold and safe in the fall of 2020?
12 Must-Read Books for Parents and Educators via The Piece of Mind Retreat