What will school look like this fall?
What will school look like this fall?
This is the biggest question in the education world right now.
After the scramble (and in many cases failure) to provide some form of continued learning when schools shut down this spring, it is clear that school leaders and teachers need to spend the summer working on a plan for the fall that will ensure every child has access to a high-quality education.
Those plans will not be easy, as they need to account for both in-person and distance learning scenarios, increased costs for cleaning and staff to provide safe environments, a need for academic catch-up after the summer and covid slide, needs for trauma support, likely decreased funding, and a whole, whole, lot of unknowns.
Thankfully a number of organizations have stepped up to offer some guidance for what the future could and should be for education. We review a couple of the plans below and highlight their key recommendations.
What the experts say
The American Enterprise’s Blueprint for Back to School for back to school offers these key six recommendations:
- General Considerations – Schools will have to coordinate closely with state and local health officials to develop a unified public health strategy, communicate with students, families, educators, and community members so they are clear on expectations for academics and public health.
- School Operations – Schools will have to revamp their day-to-day operations to adhere to public health guidance. Schools will have to examine every aspect of the school day—from classroom spaces to class schedules—and adjust to address new public health guidance. Leaders will need to address gaps in meal service and distribution plans. And, schools will need to devise transportation plans that conform with physical distancing protocols.
- Whole Child Supports – Schools need to consider students’ social and emotional (SEL) needs. Many students have experienced personal trauma as a result of the pandemic and every student has delt with anxiety, upheaval, and the loss of normalcy so schools are going to have to account for this when students return.
- School Personnel – Districts also need to consider the physical and mental health of their employees and work to make sure vulnerable teachers are safe while also making it financially feasible to deal with the ongoing crisis. Districts also need to provide extensive professional development on distance education and identifying SEL needs.
- Academics – Disrupting the school year has created broad academic challenges for students, particularly those most vulnerable before the crisis occurred. Schools will need to address schedules and instructional time, diagnostics, curriculum, and accountability. Schools should prepare for possible intermittent closures next year and have a continuity of learning plans in place.
- Distance Learning – Every school needs to have a plan in place to provide education remotely. This means taking the summer to assess the crisis measures taken during the spring and really figure out plans that will work for both a long term and short term school closure.
Cheifs for Change’s The Return: How Should Education Leaders Prepare for Reentry and Beyond? offers a number of the same recommendations, but adds some additional things to think about:
- Change school times – The current school year and daily schedule are holdovers from previous times when children needed to help harvest crops and at least one parent was home to take care of kids when they got home from school. Converting to a year-round school calendar and extending school days could provide much needed additional education time that will help students catch up and provide a buffer for future potential school closures.
- Rethink staffing models – Dealing with altered class sizes, schedules, and delivery methods may also mean having different staff provides services in different ways. High-quality teachers should be recognized, used effectively, and properly compensated while other staff and faculty may need to serve in support rolls.
- Create student agency – Given the uncertainties of the future, we need to make sure our kids are engaged in learning whether they are doing so from home or in the classroom. This means that they have to have to be invested in what they are learning which may mean reorganizing lesson plans and learning models.
Thinking outside of the box
These recommendations provide a foundation for a successful return to school in the fall, but many education leaders have declared the pandemic an inflection point for education and are proposing truly transformational changes in how we approach education across the country. Check out our next blog to see what they are proposing.