Monday, July 27, 2020

Back to school?

The back to school decisions for the fall are big, tough decisions, but bottom line--why would you put the lives of many at risk for a relatively short-term problem. Instead, choose safety first.

How can you promote safe, doable decisions for the fall?

Robust, remote education
In general, America's schools are outdated, underfunded, and neglected. This left schools unready for pandemic response. In general, America's classrooms don't have the infrastructure to school children safely during a pandemic. With that knowledge, the only safe response is remote teaching. 

Focus on what you can do
Rather than trying to replicate schools as we know them online, it's better to focus on what you can do well during this time. Some focus areas that should take priority as part of robust remote teaching and learning should be the following:
  • Read, read, read--all students should be required to read on average one or more books a week. Those books may be accessed online, in real time, and via recordings. If all of America's students were reading one or more books a week, all students and our entire country would profit.
  • Most educators should be coaching small groups of children--match qualified educators with small groups of children to forward a daily schedule of reading, writing, math, and social studies/science exploration. Teachers can do this, and children will be inspired.
Give every student in America a quality tech device and WIFI
The nation can do this and should do this.

Provide every family that makes under $200,000 a year and has children 12 and under with a substantial childcare stipend
Our children are our future, as a nation, we should financially support those children and families during this pandemic. Families can choose to use their stipends to stay home, hire a family member or neighbor, or pay for emergency childcare centers.These stipends also have the potential of invigorating family life.

Create emergency childcare centers
Massachusetts successfully created emergency childcare centers in the spring. School systems can merge resources to create these centers to support children who cannot stay at home in safe, supportive ways. 

Create social service centers rather than continue to see school as the social service agency
Create nutrition, health, and mental health support centers in every community to help families get the help they need.

Elevate healthy recreation
Find ways to elevate access to healthy recreation--the kind of recreation that gets people outdoors in healthy, positive ways. 

America's misguided decisions, analysis, and rhetoric related to bringing students back to school during a pandemic lack imagination, focus, and a positive scientific lens on what it means to live during a pandemic. There are win-win solutions for this problem, but these win-win solutions require the investment of all Americans. We can do better and I hope we do.