The emergence of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in February and March led to significant disruption for both schools and society at large.
In order to flatten the curve of infection, social distancing measures were put in place for all but the most essential of workers and schools shifted to remote learning models, which brought its own challenges.
Now that we’ve entered the summer months, many families are relieved to take a step back from focusing on their child’s schoolwork. While that’s a natural desire, now is the perfect time to start looking ahead to the new year. What is the fall going to look like for your child’s education? Is your child’s school truly going to be ready?
Free Downloadable Guide: Take a Closer Look at Friends' Central School
Below are four important questions that you can start asking now to determine whether your child’s school is going to be ready for the fall.
Questions Parents Should Ask
1. What did the initial response to distance learning look like?
It’s no surprise that the emergence of the pandemic during February and March caught many school districts unprepared for the new reality that they would soon be facing. It’s also understandable, and we’re not here to judge the prescience of others.
That being said, how schools reacted to the emergence of the pandemic in those early days can offer discerning parents valuable insights that can be useful in looking to the school year ahead.
Think back to the first few weeks of the pandemic. How did your child’s school and district react to the threat? Was there confusion, or clarity? Did administrators demonstrate leadership, or uncertainty? How long did it take to get virtual learning up and running? How did your child’s school or district perform compared to others around you?
All of these factors speak to the ability of your child’s school to operate in an agile manner, which is especially important in a time of uncertainty like the one we find ourselves in now. It’s a good idea to have a sense of this ability before the new year, and it’s own uncertainties, begin.
2. Does the school have a plan in the event that a second wave of the virus hits and forces schools to stay closed?
As of July 7, many states are still experiencing rising cases of COVID-19, including in Pennsylvania. If this spread is not brought under control in the coming months, it’s possible that schools which are now planning to start the year in the classroom may need to pivot suddenly to remote learning. It’s also possible that students might start the fall semester physically in school, only to need to shift to remote learning at some point in the future.
Simply put, it is still unclear what the fall is going to look like for schools. As a parent, you need to feel confident that your child’s school has a contingency plan designed to keep them safe and learning even in the event of a second wave of virus.
3. What kind of support is available now and into the new school year?
One of the characteristics shared by schools that have been most successful in navigating the pandemic is this: They offer excellent support to their students, families, teachers, and broader community. Support in the form of information; support in the form of clear and consistent communication; support in the form of resources and materials; technical support necessary for remote learning.
What did support look like during the earliest days of the pandemic? What does it look like now, during summer months when many parents are trying to plan for the year ahead? What can you expect in terms of support in the fall—especially in the event that a second wave of the virus hits and schools are forced to go remote after reopening?
4. What does the school community look like now that everything is remote?
Academics are, naturally, an important part of deciding whether or not your child should attend a particular school. But they aren’t the only consideration. A school is more than textbooks and lecturers—a school is a community.
What steps, if any, did your child’s school take to help preserve a sense of community during remote learning—particularly during the earliest days of the pandemic, when fear and stress were at their highest? Did sports teams, clubs, and other extracurricular activities offer opportunities for your child to stay connected to their teammates and friends? Did teachers keep up regular communication, with both you (the parent) and your child (the student)? Were achievements like graduation still celebrated? How?
Your child cannot thrive if they do not feel as though they are a part of a loving, supportive community, and community should be judged not by how it acts when times are going well, but by how it acts when times are uncertain.
What To Do If The School Doesn’t Seem Ready
If you’ve gone through all of the questions outlined above and find that you aren’t happy with the answers you’ve received, or the answers indicate that your child’s school simply won’t be ready for the fall, there are steps that you can take.
First and foremost, we recommend working some educational activities into your child’s summer break so that you can prevent summer learning loss and make sure they are starting off the new school year strong. In the same vein, parents should conduct a quick gut-check of their child’s academic progress during the past few months and decide whether or not additional steps are necessary to make up for lost classroom time.
Beyond those immediate steps, now may be an excellent time to consider making a switch to a new school—one whose answers to the questions above better match your expectations, and which you know will provide a positive, valuable academic experience whether classes are conducted virtually or in the classroom.