COVID Impact: Schools.
America has settled into a rhythm on COVID-19. Masks have become commonplace in public, millions are working remotely, and the initial panic has subsided. However, there are still some major debates and communications issues that have to be addressed at every level of the education system. K-12 Education Elementary, middle, and high schools are in a precarious position. Most children have a dramatically lower risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general population and the majority of the risk is borne by the families they could potentially spread the virus to. At the same time, studies have shown that keeping children at home will negatively affect their academic growth and development. The annual “summer slide” that often affects K-12 students was extended by a full two months. This past spring, many schools didn’t have a system in place to show whether students were actually listening to lectures, and others lacked the infrastructure to remotely assign and grade homework. The situation looks even bleaker when you factor in the furloughs and lay-offs ravaging schools throughout the country. In a letter to Congress, the Council of the Great City Schools warned that 275,000 teachers could be laid off in metropolitan districts alone because of the drop in state and local tax revenue. This fall, as school districts are making and communicating their decision to open or stay closed, there will likely be a lot of deliberation. Schools have to balance the considerations of four crucial groups of stakeholders: parents, students, teachers (employees), and the state government. Teachers have already contracted—and died from—COVID-19. If schools were to fully reopen, educators would be putting their health and safety at risk. Most school districts still have not made up their minds about how to proceed this coming fall. There are many variables—most notably the looming “second wave” of cases—preventing schools from definitively stating whether or not students will be resuming in-person instruction. However, a few localities and states have launched thoughtful, extensive communications efforts on the issue.
- California’s state superintendent of schools put together an entire sixty-page handbook defining how schools will reopen, including information on transportation, meals, special education, and monitoring the health needs of students and staff alike.
- Detroit’s public school system—in keeping with Governor Whitmer’s plans to return to normalcy in public education—put forth an ambitious outline for getting students back on track starting this summer.