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How We Got Here and What’s Next

Author: Athlene Whyte | Publish on July 22, 2020

The coronavirus has cast a shadow of uncertainty over education in the U.S., resulting in confusion for educators and parents. The pandemic came about late in the last school year, which made the decision to distance learn for those few remaining months fairly instinctive. In contrast, there is so much more to consider now when making decisions for the upcoming school year. How will the roles of administrators, paraprofessionals, teachers and parents change for the upcoming school year?

Under normal circumstances, administrators would now be deciding how to implement the strategy and budget created in the spring. Instead, they are looking to make the many decisions needed to develop a new strategy and realign resources to reopen schools for the new school year without having adequate information to do so.

Although recommendations are being made at the state level, reopening is a local decision based on local context. Many states are trying to create safety plans for learning through in-person instruction to the extent that is possible, and move to distance learning only when necessary. Parents may feel out of the loop because they are not a part of the process and may feel disconnected due to lack of communication.

Many districts have three possible scenarios for the upcoming school year, and each one comes with its own set of questions and challenges.

Scenario #1: Traditional classes

What will this look like (as students will have to practice social distancing)? Social distancing will not only be necessary in the classroom, but on buses, playgrounds and elsewhere.

What impact will there be on learning when students need to remain six feet apart? How will they learn to problem solve together and discuss strategies and solutions? How will it impact their social needs to interact with peers?

Scenario #2: Virtual learning at a distance

In a flexible, self-paced format, where there may be a live lesson or posted self-paced lessons, and practice. How will parents balance job-related issues and the needs of their children?

Scenario #3: Virtual learning at a distance combined with small in-person classroom groups

This option also has some challenges due to distanciation.

Each of these options has its challenges, but parents may find that solely distance learning presents the most challenges, especially for parents of younger children. These parents and students will need lots of support navigating and adapting to online learning.

Helping Parents Navigate the “New Normal”

Over the last few months, you may have been overwhelmed with distance learning, which brought a variety of virtual platforms, the need to access different websites for each of your child’s subjects, more responsibilities in keeping track of your child’s work and maintaining some semblance of organization. All this while still having career related duties, household duties and so many other things to take care of. And right now, you may not even be sure what the upcoming school year will look like. Will your child go back to a traditional classroom, continue to distance learn, or a combination of traditional and distance learning? You may be thinking, “If the option I choose does not work for our family, can we change in the middle of the school year?”

You can find information on the current plans of your district by visiting their website. Many districts are still trying to make decisions based on the limited information they have and the current health climate. As a result, they may not have anything solid to date.

It may also be helpful to visit your state’s department of education website to see the recommendations regarding the options for the upcoming school year. The state has regulations and recommendations about how the different options should be implemented. The important thing to know is that each county will use these recommendations to make its own decisions based on what is going on locally.

Once the decision is made about how your child will learn in the upcoming school year, you may find challenges that have not been present before. Some may be related to health concerns, others may be related to the content your child is learning in school. You will need to be in constant communication with teachers more so than ever before.

Make sure you have updated your email, phone contact and address so that the school can contact you. You can also follow your district on social media for announcements.

You may decide that distance learning is the safest option, but it may present the greatest challenge, especially if you have minor children and must balance job related duties and childcare.

You may have some anxieties that your child will not learn the content at the required level or as in depth as he or she should, or that you are now responsible for making sure assignments are done and turned in. You may have had some experience with this during the spring school closures, but here are some guidelines you may want to follow.

Get the tools that your child will need ahead of time.

You will need a device that can connect to the Internet. Some districts provide these to students, or you may be able to access a program that provides one.

You will also need access to the Internet. If you do not have Internet at home, some Internet providers are providing free access based on your individual situation. Some districts also provide hotspots that students can bring home. Speak to your child’s teacher or an administrator. In lieu of using technology, the school may be able to send a packet to your home for your child to work on.

Set up a specific work area for your child. It should have a hard, flat surface for your child to work on, such as a desk or a kitchen table. Provide adequate lighting near a window, or use a desk lamp. Provide tools such as paper, pencils and crayons if your child needs to work out problems before putting them in an online platform.

An online platform, such as Buzzmath, can help your child fill in the gaps in math and help him or her on an ongoing basis during the school year.

Oh yeah, one more important thing….make sure when your child is doing school work, that he or she takes frequent breaks to go outside, read a book, or even do a puzzle.

Stay tuned for my next article on how Buzzmath can help parents during these times!

And if you liked this article, share it with your friends, colleagues or family!

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