Let’s be honest. The last couple months of school have been lessons in trial and error when it comes to virtual learning. Parents and educators alike were thrown into this new way of teaching and well, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. After all, engaging kids through an online-only platform is hard.  Virtual learning But as parents and educators look forward to the upcoming school year, it’s looking more and more likely that virtual learning will continue to play a role in the education of our kids. Kids might be returning to the buildings in the Fall, but most likely on staggered schedules and smaller classrooms. If staggered schedules happen, then virtual learning will also have to continue, in some form, at home. So what have we learned? How can we improve? How can we make virtual learning more effective while still engaging kids? These are the questions the experts are attempting to answer in the coming months. But so far? The answer is most likely going to be different for every state, every county, and perhaps even every district. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told a Senate committee hearing recently:
“We have a very large country and the dynamics of the outbreak are different in different regions of the country, so I would imagine that situations regarding school will be very different in one region versus another.”
Even so, most schools around the U.S. and world will have some sort of distance or virtual learning in place when class resumes. More likely than not, it will complement in-person learning in some way, whether that in-person learning resumes this Fall or, in some parts of the country, in 2021.  Since remote learning is pretty much a guarantee for the next school year, we need to come up with a plan that works for both working families and parents. As Steve Yawitz, a father and fifth-grade teacher in Missouri, told Parents.com:
“We all had to hastily cobble together a plan for virtual learning for the remainder of ’19-20. I think it’d be better to just write the rest of this year off and to develop a plan for virtual learning that is as meaningful as possible and have it ready at the outset of the ’20-21 school year.”
That plan also needs to include a way of helping low-income students, who may not have access to the Internet or Wi-fi; students with learning disabilities or special learning needs; and non-native English speaking students.  Teachers did what they could in an emergency situation, but it’s time to come up with a better remote learning plan for the Fall. One that doesn’t include too many hours in front of the computer. If parents work together with educators, we can figure out a way. We have to.  The way school works and operates is changing. We have to develop a new normal. What that new normal is will depend on so many factors, as well as the various needs of families and students. And I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: we want to help our kids, but we also want to keep them safe. We want to keep them healthy, both mentally and physically. We also want them to receive a great education, and if that means overhauling the way we look at educating our kids, then let’s get to it. 


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