• Jennifer Smith

We Have the Power to End the Covid-19 Education Crisis. Why Don't We?

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

For two years, we have been concerned with the impact of the virus on children’s education. Rather than institute needed changes and back-up plans, administrators have simply waited for everything to go back to normal. Well, guess what? We will never be returning to normal. This is our life for the foreseeable future. We might as well have some plans to ensure our children are educated safely.

Switching to remote learning in 2020 was a quick pivot because we did not see this coming. We found ourselves at a loss for how to manage teaching and learning during a pandemic of this proportion. Remote learning was the safest choice. We have had 2 years to redesign and plan for different variants and surges in the virus. Both of which scientists have known were coming, and we knew the vaccine was not going to eradicate covid-19 completely. So, why were we not using our creativity and imagination to develop a new kind of school? Why were we not imagining a school that could manage covid-19 safely?

It doesn’t have to be either/or when we are discussing in-person and remote learning. We demonstrated that last year when many schools used hybrid options to limit the number of students at school on certain days. Why aren’t schools using this possibility right now to limit the virus spread? Students would still be in school, just not every day.

Yet, many people are committed to the idea that schools must be in-person every day. If schools are committed to in-person daily learning, our government and school officials need to take action. Beyond the typical mitigation efforts, more can be done. Even with a surge, we have resources to assist schools.

What can we do to ensure every day school?

  1. Provide daily testing for all students, faculty, and staff

  2. Provide masks every day for all students, faculty, and staff

  3. Involve National Guard to substitute teach, drive buses, and serve food for faculty and staff who may become ill or quarantines

  4. Move administrators and any business staff to the classrooms to reduce class size

  5. Provide ventilators for every classroom all day long

  6. Tap into college/university populations and offer temporary jobs to students to help cover classes, serve meals, recess duty, etc.

  7. Involve parents to substitute teach, contact trace, drive buses, and serve food

  8. Provide outdoor tents and heaters to any school with outdoor space

  9. Lease business offices whose workers are currently remote for class space

The reality is all of these actions require planning. They require forethought. They require foresight, collaboration and some imagination. We always need to be asking “what if” and “why not”?

Rather than be solution-oriented, Americans have been deflecting blame. Government officials and public health officials are saying we can get it done without understanding what challenges schools face. No one is asking teachers for assistance or input in crafting the plans. In order to craft a plan for a school, one needs to know how schools work.

Teachers are some of the most innovative and creative people in today’s workforce. They have ideas, solutions, and innovations. It seems, however, no one wants to hear actual solutions for keeping schools open. Rather than ask what ideas teachers in Chicago had to solve their crisis, government officials chose to lock them out of their virtual course access. Which leads me to wonder–do we really care about the students?

Is our goal to ensure they are educated and cared for to the best of our ability? Or is our goal something else?

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