Balancing Appropriate Mitigation and Risk Tolerance
As well-intended and industrious as our educators and leaders are in delivering remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn't come close to meeting the learning needs for a majority of the students we serve. Our overall education system is conventional in nature and not designed to do what we are doing now. One thing that we've learned is that there is a significant need to refine our system so that we are prepared to meet both similar and unique challenges in the future, but that will most certainly take time. In the meantime, we have a learning deficit that is growing exponentially during our school closures.
In my opinion, Students need to be back in the classroom come fall. Of course that being said, it will definitely look different in regards to personal protective equipment (PPE) and rigorous safety protocols pertaining to personal hygiene and facility cleanliness. I believe that if regional data from local health agencies shows a low level of risk within a school district's boundaries, that LEA stands on solid ground when it comes to making a decision to open its campuses to all students, five days a week. The latter is certainly the ideal option, if it is safe to do so, but we also need to be prepared to accommodate families that are not ready to send their children back to school. Many school districts, including ours, are working hard in planning for a "hybrid" learning model that would host fewer students on campus in a single day and supplement days they are not in attendance with alternative means of independent practice and virtual learning. This option is better than what we're currently doing and will help offset learning loss, but will not eradicate it completely.
I haven't even mentioned the social well-being of our students, staff, and parents. Many people are realizing how much for granted we take the public education system. The academic value of our schools is obvious, but it's also the social emotional aspects, consistency, and predictability that all of our stakeholders benefit from.