By Drew Sarmiere - July 31, 2020
How To Safely Educate Our Children During the Pandemic - Drew Sarmiere
This is a complicated topic and I’m not going to try to cover every detail, but here’s a quick post on how we can best educate our children during the current pandemic.
Elementary - These kids have to go back to school full-time. There’s no good way to teach children of this age online full-time that’s in any way feasible right now. Of course, we have to take every safety precaution we reasonably can, but these kids have to go back to school. Fortunately, the current data suggest that they are the safest age group from this virus both in terms of sickness and transmission.
Middle School and High School - It is not safe to send these kids back to school. Students and teachers will get sick and some of them will die. The disease will also increasingly spread elsewhere. Fortunately, these students can effectively learn via online platforms if they are done appropriately and the students who need it (most of them) are held to a reasonable level of accountability both by educators and by those caring for them at home. Now, there are A LOT of factors to consider in terms of how best to teach students remotely. That said, remote learning can work and can and will get better over time. As for the half-measures that are currently under consideration (one cohort on one day, another cohort on another day, a day off for cleaning, etc. etc. ), these are the worst options: we’ll end up with bad learning environments AND we’ll spread the virus.
To be effective, remote learning should mimic in-school learning in many ways. Most importantly, there should be set daily schedules during which classes are taught by the teacher at specified times during which students must be logged on in attendance. Teachers should teach from their classrooms at school just as they would if students were in attendance in-person. Teachers can show up to their classrooms each day, yet teach remotely (viral spread should be extremely low if only teachers come to school and precautions are taken). There are a number of reasons to do it this way, but one important reason (and you classroom teachers know exactly what I’m talking about here), is that there are IT professionals at schools who can help ensure that the technology is running smoothly and being used most effectively. In this scenario, a student’s remote learning school day would be scheduled very similarly to a typical in-school learning day: A o’clock to B o’clock: Language Arts, C o’clock to D o’clock: Math, E o’clock to F o’clock, Science, G o’clock to H o’clock: lunch. You get the point. Breaks could be scheduled in, “recesses”, study halls, teacher office hours, etc. Yes, there are still A LOT of factors to consider when trying to pull off quality remote learning, but this is the point from which to start.
Post-Secondary - You can’t send kids back to college/etc. Talk about spreading the virus? It’s like college students try to give each other illnesses. They must learn remotely.
Eventually, we will have a vaccine and/or other treatments that will allow students to return to school. For now, this is the way we must start the 2020-2021 school year.