This is Thanksgiving week, which normally means the beginning of a slow news season that lasts until after New Year’s Day. People are taking vacations or getting ready for the new year, so not much happens other than crime and sports news.
“Normally” is the operative word here, and 2020 has been anything but normal. Not since 2001 has American society gone through as much upheaval as it has this year thanks to COVID-19 and divisive national politics.
Locally, COVID-19 and our response to it will likely dominate things for months to come. We’re already seeing school officials talk about moving away from remote learning and doing what they can to get children back into classrooms.
Earlier this month, Wayne County Superintendent Todd Alexander told that county’s board of education he thinks the county should work to get students back to in-person school for four days a week, but he wants to hear how parents feel about the transition and find out if other schools that are already on the four- or five-day week have been consistently in person.
Students could gradually be worked back into a four-day schedule by Jan. 26, with Wednesdays being used for online learning while staff disinfects buildings, Alexander said. Of course, much of that depends on the color-coded map that is driving so much in education this school year.
Thursday morning, state school Superintendent Clayton Burch told MetroNews that remote learning, which relies on online learning and printed materials, is not working well for West Virginia schoolchildren. Recovering academically from the classroom time lost so far could be a three- to five-year process, he said.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that some children have done well with distance learning. Those children tend to have parents who can be with them and be actively involved in the process. It helps of the home has access to high-speed internet. Sadly, many children in West Virginia and elsewhere in Appalachia don’t have those advantages. Thus, a return to in-school learning could be in the works.
Perhaps by coincidence, an opinion piece in Friday’s Wall Street Journal advocated for teachers to be next in line after health care workers when one or both COVID-19 vaccines become available next year. The writers argue that many students are not getting the social, emotional and nutritional support they need and that mothers are dropping out of the work force because they cannot afford child care for their children.
These three occurrences indicate that educators believe children are falling behind in learning. The longer schools are closed, the further behind they fall. Thus it is imperative to re-open the schools as soon as possible.
That sounds like a reasonable plan. For the most part, schools have been closed since mid-March. Continuing the closure into March 2021 or beyond could mean a lost year or more for our children.
Everyone wants to do what is best for schoolchildren. Doing what it takes to re-open schools safely must be a priority so students don’t fall too far behind.