Repeat a year? Skip a year? Make up a year?
By Josh Resnek
The public schools are shut down. The school year is in question. During the first week of May, another look will be taken at whether or not to call school off for the year, open up schools, skip a year or to make up a year?
All four choices are not ideal situations for sprawling public school districts like Everett’s.
“It will be up to the state almost entirely how these difficulties will be dealt with,” said a Everett school official who wished to remain unnamed.
Most of those with an understanding of what it takes to shut down a public school system in March and try to open it back up in May know the idea is all about Week 3 in the age of coronavirus Locked in mostly but not entirely impossibility.
More likely than not, Everett’s public schools are done for the year.
Special dispensations must be made for Everett High School seniors with college looming. Decisions about what to do to move forward also must be decided upon.
There is the matter of an upcoming round of MCAS tests.
The seriousness of the disruption caused by the coronavirus is so profound up and down the societal ladder in the United States, it is hard to know if college will be viable in September or even if public school will be viable in a form we recognize.
The revolution now underway to educate kids with online classes vastly reduces the cost of education in its traditional form.
However, there are problems with classroom instruction done online.
Attendance in our building bound public schools is a big problem with or without coronavirus throughout the school year.
Many public school students in this city do not attend class everyday as a matter of fact.
This situation, according to an article published this week in the New York Times, is magnified in the online educational classrooms now being conducted by Everett teachers and teachers everywhere because public school students aren’t attending the online classes.
“There are technology gaps and equity issues,” said the Everett school official. “We’re basically doing this on the fly,” he added.
The NYT report indicated attendance in online classrooms in many major and minor American cities is poor, with some teachers teachers reporting no more than 45% attendance for such classes.
The trend is leading to widespread concern among educators, with talk of a potential need for summer sessions, an early start in the fall, or perhaps having some or even all students repeat a grade once Americans are able to return to classrooms.
In addition, many public school students cannot read or write in the English language, making teaching online classes that much more difficult.
The jury is still out on the nascent effort to have Everett public school students taught online.
Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani has embarked on an online teaching protocol with EPS’s teachers and students in all the grades.
This is entrepreneurial. It carries great risks. In many ways, this effort is all about the future of public school education in the post coronavirus world.
Part of this program includes the use of computers and Chrome Books lap tops recently distributed district wide free of charge to the parents of school age children enrolled in the city of Everett public schools.
The state has provided a very loose framework to the cities and towns about the scope and depth of online teaching.
Repeated efforts by the Leader Herald to reach out to the superintendent have failed to draw a response from her.
Students are struggling to connect in districts large and small. Los Angeles said last week that about a third of its high school students were not logging in for classes, according to the Times.
Educators say that some students and their parents have dropped out of touch with schools completely — unavailable by phone, email or any other form of communication — as families struggle with the broader economic and health effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
Even before the outbreak, chronic absenteeism was a problem in many schools, especially those with a lot of low-income students.
Many obstacles can prevent children who live in poverty from making it to class: a parent’s broken-down car or a teenager’s need to babysit siblings, for example.
But online learning presents new obstacles, particularly with uneven levels of technology and adult supervision, according to the Times.
Cratering attendance in some districts contrasts with reports from several selective or affluent schools where close to 100 percent of students are participating in online learning. The dramatic split promises to further deepen the typical academic achievement gaps between poor, middle-class and wealthy students.
School leaders across the country are already debating how to help students catch up. To maintain social distancing, some regions may bring children back to school in waves, in order to reduce the number of people inside classrooms and buildings at any given time.
One thing becomes apparent, students and teachers miss being together in a learning, nurturing environment.
Online studies can never replace that.