The repercussions of Coronavirus most strongly affect disadvantaged/at-risk students — those from low income households, minorities, and students with socio-behavioral challenges — while also having a major impact on the education continuum across the country.
WHAT WE KNOW:
- The pandemic continues to interfere with the schooling, constantly changing education methods worldwide.
- The resulting changes require innovative measures for students of each grade level, regardless of socio-economic background.
- The hurdle: innovations in curriculum delivery are predominantly digital, making it a challenge to equitably serve disadvantaged and at-risk student populations.
- Social and emotional growth of children is critical. Would these initiatives meet those needs? People need interaction — children learn from watching others. Will the child with a device in hand, but whose guardian is working 3 jobs to stay afloat suffer from lack of socialization?
WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
The economic implications of COVID-19 will impact the nation’s prosperity for decades. Attempting to address this crisis, the federal government has proposed $43 Billion* in support of programs in place, or as a part of the stimulus package. This strong first step towards a platform includes:
- A Child Care Development grant supporting access to early childhood education for essential workers
- Head Start programs, including funds for supplemental summer programs
- Programs that ensure students have access to nutritious meals while schools are closed
- The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund which will provide emergency support to childcare, early childhood, and K-12 systems, as well as higher education institutions
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for programs authorized under current federal plans (i.e. assistive technology, adaptive equipment, ESL student support, mental health services, and deep cleaning/disinfection services)
- Higher education stabilization funding addressing the needs of colleges serving low-income students
- Temporary payment relief for student loan holders (direct loans as well as U.S. Department of Education owned Federal Family Education Loans)
The resulting response to COVID-19 by Federal and State government, school districts, and communities has been a miraculous collaborative effort.
THAT’S A START, BUT WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
These initial efforts and funding programs set the stage for creating and fostering a responsive, equitable platform for education. What can be done to reestablish and maintain its continuum? How can we assist students of all levels in making up for lost time without contributing to additional disparity? Here are some ideas:
- Additional stimulus packages may be required to address the needs of challenged students while allowing the mainstream students to efficiently make up for lost classroom time.
- Outreach programs (via K-12 districts, Technical and Community Colleges adult education programs, etc.) to assist parents/guardians with language barriers, facilitating their roles as educators on the home front.
- Parents will need to continue to work closely with and in support of teachers, taking an active role in their children’s studies, indefinitely.
- Outmoded educational approaches need to be replaced by newer, alternative curriculum deliveries, and individualized learning, accessible to all.
- Students and teachers alike must embrace the concept of “learning anywhere, anytime” via digital education formats such as synchronous face-to-face video instruction.
- Traditional in-person classroom learning must be supplemented with additional learning platforms (i.e. live broadcast, virtual reality experiences, worldwide curriculum integration/information sharing).
- A large socio-economic issue is the divide created by limited access to broadband. The need for equity of access to digital resources has made many states take this more deeply into consideration regarding remote learning plans.
- The creation of consortia (governments, publishers, educators, technology providers, business and industry, etc.) to create and utilize digital platforms, moving the process forward, where it will continue to evolve for years. Let’s make the world SMALLER via access to information and thought leadership!
- Once our nation is back on a healthy, economically stable track, this new normal for education must become our number one priority.
SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND:
Economically challenged students, and those with undereducated or language-challenged parents will be left behind without access to on-line classes. If every school district could implement a one-to-one program to provide each student with their own device (paid for and serviced by the district, with restricted internet access), these students will have a realistic opportunity to learn. Otherwise, the “digital divide” will continue to grow as education and technology continue to evolve.
A friend recently mused that COVID-19 is to traditional educational what Uber is to the transportation industry. Opportunity is presenting itself, should we choose to seize it.
*Education Week March 27, 2020 — Andrew Ujifusa Reporting; and Inside Higher Education, April 7, 2020
Doug has over 35 years of experience in the planning and design of educational and institutional facilities and includes all phases of architecture, feasibility studies, master planning, facilities evaluation, programming, and design. Doug’s extensive experience in planning and design of educational facilities includes feasibility studies, master planning, site and facilities evaluation, programming, design, project administration, urban planning, historic preservation and project management for both new construction and renovations. He has a depth of project experience with numerous school districts in the Carolinas.