COVID – “Suffer the Little Children”
Many school districts, including my own LAUSD, have decided to offer only remote learning this fall. Last spring, in districts that offered remote learning, only about 20% of the student body fully participated. This means that 80% of kids did not. So, as this continues, by the end of January 2021, approximately 80% of kids, k-12, will have lost a year of schooling.
Some children could not attend because they did not have internet. Some could not attend because they did not have computers. Some, who had a computer at home, didn’t have full access to it because their parents were using their home computer for work. There are other reasons that affect participation. Whatever the reason for missing, the result is the same. The child who misses is not getting an education.
What does this mean? If you are a first grader, you probably did not get to master your numbers or work on reading comprehension. And, at a time when your brain is developing, you missed out on a period in your life when you are most capable of learning new things. Our first grader is probably spending their time at home feeling isolated, bored, and really not understanding why they can’t go to school and see their friends. Many are angry, which can lead to depression.
There is a reason school is 6+ hours long and lasts for 9 months. It’s a time for kids to engage with others, learn social skills. Teachers teach, then they reinforce what they teach. Teachers get to know their students, so personal attention can be given when needed. Kids get a chance to be artistic; work in mediums they might never get a chance to try at home. I learned how to use a saw to cut wood. They might learn to play a musical instrument or perform a science experiment.
For many, school is more than a place to learn and socialize. It is the place where they get their one good meal of the day. It’s a place where they feel safe. There is a playground, a place to run.
What are we giving students instead? They spend their days at home. Most online programs offer approximately 2 hours of on-line time with a teacher, hopefully, per day. This will allow the teachers to lecture on the basics and answer questions. So far, definitive plans for individual time with their teachers have not, unless a teacher offers it on their own time, been incorporated into the curriculum. Some schools are sending home worksheets. It’s not looking good for our youth.
Working adults are concerned about their jobs. If their kids get what they need from them, time, attention, support with their schoolwork, will employers get what they want from those parents with kids at home? Will taking care of their kid’s cost workers their jobs? In many cases, this is a valid concern.
There are many unknowns! What will kids, stuck at home, do to entertain themselves? How will they be impacted emotionally and developmentally? Is isolation a problem? How can we engage these kids so their boredom doesn’t become something else? How will they catch up? In an increasingly competitive world, what will be their place?
The truth is we are ignoring the long term impact of sheltering in place. We are looking at things in a binary way: option 1, bring kids back to a traditional school setting or, option 2, educate them remotely at home. The “cop-out” alternative, moving schooling to the home, presents no immediate risk, but pushes down the road all of the consequences our children will face. If teachers are teaching from home, you can’t get sued by a teacher who gets sick, you don’t have to pay them extra hazard pay for being in the classroom.
What alternatives have we considered? Where is the innovation? Where are the creative solutions? Maybe an answer is bringing kids to school and having aids in protective gear control the classrooms. Lectures can be done remotely but displayed on computers in the classroom. Individual help can be provided on-line or accessed through their phones. There could be a million other viable possibilities that we have simply ignored. With COVID on the rise, to build a future for our children, we must answer this question “Is there a way we can provide a suitable, valuable education for our children in a supportive setting, and, at the same time, reduce the risk of exposure to our children and their teachers?” The 80% who are missing out on a proper education need this answered soon!