Public schools transitioning through lots of bumps as difficult year winds down

By Josh Resnek

My wife is a teacher at a middle school in the North Shore. We have a close friend who just retired after teaching 20 years as an ESL (English as a second language) at a Lynn high school. Our coverage of the Everett Public Schools and and the School Committee over time has given us insight into the ups and downs of public school education here.

Marker denoting the year Everett High School was built.

All of us know teachers in the system while many of us have children who have attended public schools, and then there is the experience we had many years ago in public school when our nation and out cities and towns were far different places than they are today.

For many years the Leader Herald has known and interviewed or written about administrators, teachers and students who either worked for or who attended the EPS.

We continue the coverage.

As this school year comes to an end, there lingers among everyone involved with public school education the belief that this was difficult year to be followed by a difficult year.

What is the difficulty?

Those involved in public school education share the collective belief that the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the public schools for such a long period has deeply changed, for a while, the trajectory of the arc of public school education here and everywhere in Massachusetts and across the nation.

The interruption of in class education for so long a period disrupted much about public school education. Since the return to classroom instruction, major difficulties have popped up and are being dealt with as best as possible.

School kids have found it difficult to bridge the gap left by so long a period without classroom instruction.

Socialization has been stunted among those public school students who missed out on more than a year of classroom and school building friendships, and sports, and competitions.

We are reminded of the difficulties of returning to normal by a bit that was in the news earlier this week.

A pro baseball pitcher was hit in the head by a line drive baseball traveling over 92 miles an hour.

That incident caused the major league pitcher to be taken from the game a bit bewildered. He was examined and shown to have a concussion.

Recovering from the concussion is easy. He needs rest.

But recovering from the shock of being hit the head with a baseball flying 92 mph will not leave his consciousness for many years and could have an effect on his performance and for years to come.

The return to the classroom instruction of public school students deprived of it has been fraught with difficulties that are reverberating today as teachers try to control their classrooms.

There is a lack of self-control shared among students, to teachers leaving the profession because of frustration and dissatisfaction, to many position openings that cannot be filled, to restrictions placed on administering the schools by serious fiscal challenges, and by the difficult politics caused by the changing times.

Everett High School. (Photo by Joe Resnek)

In Everett, as in other Gateway city school systems, there is the need for more space. Overcrowding remains a problem.

Also, what serves best the student body at large remains a critical question.

In other words, the needs of public school students to be met so they can enter society is evolving.

The cost for four-year college educations and the need for many students to achieve proficiency in ways so they can support themselves when they enter adult society is the biggest game changer.

There is the belief that college does not help or fit for all public school children when developing a trade skill might leave many students struggling to find a place for themselves better off.

This is a great part of the local debate now taking shape and form about the new high school that is needed.

That new facility now being planned for – a struggle in itself – will cost $500 million – $600 million when all is said and done.

Exactly what that new facility will offer is a work in progress.

How it will be paid for is another key element.

There is the widely shared belief that the new high school, when and if it is ever built, should have a major component offering education geared towards the trades for those students who would benefit more from that type of education than attending college.

In 2007, when the new high school (which is not new anymore) was built, there was no such debate.

It’s impossible to imagine that in just 16 years, the Everett High School os overcrowded and limited in what it can do for the students passing through the system in order for them to gain an edge in their lives when it comes time to go out and earn a living.

The dream of a new high school is spot on.

The belief training many kids in the trades can change the course of economic history in Gateway cities is a progressive thought.

The reality right now is that everything about public school education is tougher than ever before…with the future appearing more difficult and complicated and expensive as this school year passes into the history books.

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