How to prepare for a school year like no other

FILE PHOTO: Maddie McCoy virtually teaches a forth grade class for students who are either at home or in a separate classroom as in-person learning resumes with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Rover Elementary School in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Cheney Orr/File Photo

By Beatrix Lockwood

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Parents, teachers and students nationwide are preparing for a school year like no other. As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters gathered a group of experts to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed K-12 education.

Below are edited highlights.

How can parents, students and teachers prepare for the coming school year?

“Slow things down! Take your expectations of what’s possible in classrooms and cut them in half. Generally, teachers haven’t been given nearly enough time to reconfigure their teaching practices. Give them some slack. Zoom fatigue is real.”

— Antero Garcia, assistant professor at Stanford University

“Being prepared means being flexible. Schools will likely have to open and close based on transmission rates in their communities and cases in schools.”

— John Bailey, visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute

How will learning in 2020-2021 academic year look different, now that we’ve had a few months to plan?

“We hope to see districts adapt and improve quickly. There are a lot of thoughtful and creative reopening plans. Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting promising approaches to address both health and learning needs, whether in person or remote.”

— Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education

“One of the questions of this school year is: Will remote instruction be improved? District officials say yes, but still many kids don’t have what they need tech-wise and much time this summer was spent working on health and safety, not instruction.”

— Matt Barnum, education policy reporter at Chalkbeat

Are there ways to replicate the social, emotional and non-academic experiences children get in school if they are not physically in the classroom?

“That is the hardest part for both K-12 and higher ed. Youth life is gradually resuming in places where the virus rates are low enough – distanced soccer and the rest. We need to get kids together physically at a distance to do some of these things.”

— Jal Mehta, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Can you talk about the technology gap, and how it is impacting learning? What resources are available to breach the digital divide?

“Far too many students are being left behind from distance learning as they lack internet access at home and a dependable device. Many teachers also lack the connectivity they need to deliver remote instruction and support student learning.”

— National Parent Teachers Association

“From a culturally responsive-sustaining perspective, we see that young people access tech in ways that are not fully clear to those who design education – through video games, cellphones, and other digital devices that could also be used to curate a learning experience.”

— David E. Kirkland, executive director at The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools

How is the pandemic impacting children with special needs? What advice do you have to help kids with developmental challenges learn now?

“Communication will be key. Parents need to understand what schools are doing to provide their children with the needed interventions, related services and accommodations. And educators will need to check-in with parents to see what’s working.”

— Laura Schifter, lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Disruption can lead to transformation. How will education change, post-COVID?

“Frankly, we will have failed our children if this next decade isn’t transformational. We can’t wait any longer to take on the major systemic problems holding kids back. Now is the time to build a world grounded in the real needs and aspirations of all students.”

— Teach For America

“The transformation of education will be shaped by how we perceive the disruption. Education is always evolving and opportune. This is an opportunity to increase attention to inequity in education and the critical social and emotional needs of students ahead.”

— Rebecca Kullback, co-founder of LaunchWell and Metropolitan Counseling Associates

(Editing by Lauren Young and Aurora Ellis)

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