The COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, and
adaptation to the “new normal” is happening in every part of the U.S.
from the economy, to healthcare, to sports, to education, and more.
The public school system was one of the first major public entities to
declare stay-at-home orders, and for the entirety of the spring and
summer semesters, students from preschool through college had to adapt
to learning from home via an internet connection.
The adaptation for the youngest members of the education sector was
probably a bit easier, as the daily grind of school hadn’t been
ingrained in their heads yet, but for middle school and high school
students, the coronavirus changed everything that they had known for
the majority of their young lives.
well being in the minds of both sides of the argument, there
have been heated discussions about returning kids to school for the
fall semester. Those who want the school to continue online are
nervous about the fact that nothing has really changed about COVID, so
they are unsure why the school plan needs to change. Also, with all of
the stipulations that would be required to send students back, some
parents fear it will just be another situation where kids have to
focus more on the style of learning than the learning itself,
thus wanting to stick to “the new normal” rather than changing to
another new normal.
There are some
education leadership organizations that feel similar, regarding
the focus on the style of learning, but because of this they believe
students need to get back to the one-on-one style of education that
allows students to ask questions, stay after class for extra help, and
have a school full of resources at their disposal. Other proponents of
the “send them back” side point to financial issues for parents who
are already struggling due to setbacks in employment caused by COVID.
Public school is, indeed, a tax-funded service, and though education
is the primary reason it exists, it’s also somewhat of a free form of
childcare for a lot of families, offering inexpensive meals and a safe
environment to interact with peers.
Some states have been able to compromise and are planning on sending
students back on a staggered schedule. About 1/4th of the students
will attend in-class instruction each day, while the other 3/4ths work
from home. Each student would have one day on campus and 4 online.
This would allow for those struggling students to get their one-on-one
help, and also means the halls would not be completely full as they
would be with a full plate of students.
Regardless of the route a given area takes, though, there is still
yet another future event that will have to be adapted too, and
that is the time when a vaccine is created and the world as we used to
know it can once again be our regular. Should school just go back to
the way things were, or should they adapt some of the methodologies
used to educate during the coronavirus stand down periods? The jury is
out, but expectations are aplenty.
According to Dr. D. Antonio Cantu, Associate Dean and Director of the
Department of Education and Online Doctorate of Education program at Bradley
University, “the impact of the pandemic on elementary schools is truly
significant and indelible. The pandemic has caused us to reflect on
how we define and deliver instruction to elementary students in a
manner not experienced before. Specifically, the implementation of
remote or distance learning in elementary schools, in a real time
manner that the current situation warrants, has caused us to swing the
pedagogical pendulum from in-person to online instructional delivery
in a condensed and expedited timeframe that would have otherwise taken
years to achieve. While elementary schools will return to in-person
instruction on the other side of the pandemic, the collective takeaway
for teachers, from their experience delivering instruction to students
in the online teaching and learning environment they created during
the pandemic, will continue to guide them for years to come. For many
elementary teachers, while the situation was anything but ideal,
engagement in online or hybrid/blended teaching and learning during
the pandemic served to expand their pedagogical comfort zone and
yielded some educational value added for their students, which will
will further guide teachers in the lesson planning process and in the
instructional strategies and approaches they integrate into their
respective classrooms for years to come.”
Anytime there is a major event in a city or state, there are always
talks about “how are things going to be after this?” With Hurricane
Katrina as a fairly recent example, the city of New Orleans
experienced catastrophic damage, and left more than a million people
grieving, yet ultimately coming together to provide help to one
another. For a little while after the storm, local residents would say
things like “before Katrina” and “after Katrina” as time references,
and expectations of great change were made. Now, only a decade and a
half later, anyone in the city will say things are pretty much the
same as they have always been.
The coronavirus, of course, is a much larger scale issue, and has
effected the entire world, not just a lot of coastal cities on the
Gulf of Mexico. To assume everything will be the same in the states
after the vaccine cleans things up is probably a bit of a stretch,
especially because there have been many silver linings found in the
changes we were forced to make, school very much included.
Many experts believe that Zoom or some sort of teleconferencing will
continue to be a part of elementary education, even if schools do go
back to full classroom set ups. Sick students can Zoom into class, for
instance, and after school help doesn’t have to mean missing a bus.
Everyone likes options, and by most accounts, the “option” to
continue things the way they were may be there for a lot of parents
who liked having their kids at home. It’s no secret that schoolyards
can be mean places, too, so the telecommunication aspect of COVID
schooling may also be able to help students who are bullied continue
to learn while avoiding a stressful and depressive environment.
No matter what path is taken, before, during, and after the pandemic,
those people in charge of academics seem to genuinely care about the
kids and their education, no matter what position they are taking.
Compromise will be extremely important, and keeping an open mind can
help your kids get a fuller one!