Planning as a Family for School in 2020
June 5, 2020
How do you plan for whatever might happen with schools this fall?
As we conclude this school year, we are also giving thought to the next and while there are still many unknowns with respect to the 2020-2021 school year, schools have begun planning for multiple scenarios. Once state and local governmental authorities, taking into account the guidance of health officials, issue guidelines, schools can begin to execute on their plans. This information is expected to be released in July. The priority will be on keeping students, teachers and the community healthy.
The three main options currently being considered by most schools are:
- Continuing distance education as students have been since schools closed and the continuity of learning plans were enacted
- Using a hybrid approach in which a reduced number of students are in school each day (say half of the class) and are doing distance learning the other days.
- Resuming a standard school schedule with reduced class sizes, enhanced safety and cleanliness protocols and social distancing procedures.
Additionally, it is expected that due to state budget shortfalls, public schools are likely to face a reduction in finding of anywhere from $800-$1500. The federal government has allotted each district some funding through the Cares Act, which can help, but most likely will not make up the loss from the state funding.
Regardless of funding realities, it is important that schools do prioritize investments to make learning more effective in our ‘new normal.’ Some of the investments being made include enhancing infrastructure-everything to increasing technology access, reconfiguring classrooms to allow for social distancing and setting up temperature taking stations as students enter the school. Districts will need to make investment into professional development for teachers. Teachers will need additional support on how to best use online resources and tools, how to motivate and give feedback to students who are learning outside of the classroom, how to teach in classrooms in which students can no longer be near each other and how to enforce any rules or policies. Additionally, students themselves will need some direct training on what is expected of them under these new conditions. Unfortunately, students and teachers (and parents!) were taken by surprise in March when overnight, everything changed. They were expected to immediately be able to respond and know what to do, even though no one prepared them for these changes. All of this change caught everyone by surprise and everyone is trying their best to cope and manage. That said, we have the benefit of our experiences March-June and an entire summer in which to prepare for the new norms of school. As parents, you can help in many ways:
- Make sure your child is properly enrolled in school for the fall. This action will allow you school to properly plan for your child in terms of space, materials, safety resources and other things that each child will need. It will also keep you informed of what the school is doing and help you and your child prepare. Last minute changes or enrollments will be very disruptive to schools and students.
- Provide your teachers and school with feedback about how your experience and your child’s experience. There has been a range of responses to distance learning-some positive and some negative. Help your school plan better for next year by letting them know what worked, what did not work and what suggestions you have to make things better.
- Talk with your own child about the possibilities for next year so that they are prepared for any changes. You can explain how school might look different, but reassure them that they will be safe. Help to reduce any anxiety they may have so that they are mentally ready for the new school year. Take a few minutes to reflect with your child about the past few months. It’s important to hear how they are feeling. The last few months have been hard on all of us, no one more than the children and it is important for their voice to be heard.
- Prepare yourself for a completely new experience with respect to schooling. Schools are familiar and emotional places and each of us has a very strong idea of what school is supposed to be because we experienced it ourselves. We have to accept that students may have very little physical contact with their peers, which may mean no athletics, no playing tag on the playground, no group work in which there are shared items or resources, and no sitting together at lunch and trading items from lunch boxes. The intimacy that physical contact creates will be greatly reduced and we will need to help our children use new skills to build relationships and friendships. We will also learn from them how they are making their way in a new dynamic and help to encourage them to develop their own sense of belonging. In order to be at our best as parents, we need to first acknowledge that things will be different, deal with our own sense of grief and accept these changes. Whether they are beginning kindergarten or entering their final year of high school, our kids will be ok-they are resilient, creative and have a natural drive to connect. They will navigate this new world just fine and will find ways to thrive.