Like most events in 2020, return to schools will look very different this year as districts and families attempt to find a balance between distance and in-person learning while maintaining the health and safety of students and teachers.
As schools reopen with virtual, hybrid or face-to-face instruction, there are many barriers and opportunities school leaders and families will face. The goal, in addition to protecting the health of educators and students, should be to provide each and every child with a high-quality education and prevent any further learning loss.
As school districts and the state continue to refine their plans for how schooling will look, we urge leaders to use this as an opportunity for growth and creativity. Stand for Children has developed a guide for ‘Preventing a Lost School Year’ that offers direction on ways to ensure educational equity in a primarily virtual environment.
Below are a handful of recommendations for ensuring that every child is given the best opportunity possible to prevent learning loss in the upcoming school year:
- Every child should have a device to access learning remotely and reliable, high-speed internet. Districts should prioritize spending on purchasing the technology and connectivity required for every child to access learning.
- Every child should have an advisor, counselor or school team member who will check in with them at least once a week to ensure the well-being of the student, support their social-emotional needs, and provide support for the child and their family.
- School must matter. While every effort should be made to allow for flexible grading policies, every educator must have access to a high-quality curriculum and we must assess student learning gaps through diagnostic testing within the first few weeks of schools to ensure we know where students are so we can close any gaps that exist.
- Communication and outreach with families and students must be a priority and include conducting virtual home visits prior to school starting, assigning an advisor for each middle and high school student, and ensuring weekly communication via phone or text to parents. There is a great opportunity to implement virtual home visits, Stand for Children has suggested that the school year begin with a virtual home visit for every student.
- During this uncertain time, and when so many families rely on school as a place where their children can receive nutritious meals, every attempt possible should be made to provide free, accessible meals to families that need them. The locations and dates of these sites should be clearly communicated via social media outlets and via phone and text.
It is no doubt that these are uncertain times, but that does not mean that we should waiver in our belief that every child deserves a quality education. In fact, it is in these times that we should work harder to identify and solve for challenges in delivery that could result in larger gaps with regard to equity and educational outcomes. Our children deserve no less than leaders who are innovative and stop at nothing to ensure they receive an education that puts them on the path to prosperity and beyond.