Coronavirus and Education
As communities nationwide grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, educators are struggling to provide young people with meaningful opportunities to continue learning even with most public schools now closed. In this installment of Word on the Beat, we look at how digital tools are being put into quick action for K-12 education — and how that’s creating both opportunities and challenges for teachers, students, and families.
Keep Calm and Report On
In any health crisis, the news media is a critical source of information for the public. Education reporters can, and should, play a key role in their newsroom coverage, given that schools are a significant factor in efforts to contain and limit the existing outbreak of the coronavirus.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday she is determined to reopen Chicago Public Schools on time this fall, but do it safely, perhaps by using “alternate days, kind of a platoon” system to limit the numbers of students and teachers in schools at one time.
Declaring “students need their teachers,” Lightfoot recalled how moved she was to see video during the pandemic of an elementary school teacher who “literally drove to her student’s house, sat in the driveway” to maintain social distance and read the young girl a book.
When school buildings reopen, many teachers might not be there.
About 18 percent of all teachers are aged 55 or older. That age group accounts for about 92 percent of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although adults who are 65 and older are most at risk. Teachers with underlying medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, are also at high risk for severe illness caused by the coronavirus.
A year into leading the March for Our Lives rallies in Arizona, where calls for stronger gun control fell mostly on deaf ears, Induja Kumar, 17, and her fellow student organizers decided to try something different.
They started demanding more school counselors.
Most springs, the Pasco school district celebrates its middle and high school turnaround students with a full buffet luncheon, live music, and inspirational speeches aimed at conveying the value they place on the teens who have overcome obstacles to find success.
Social distancing squashed that opportunity for this season. But organizer Ramón Suarez, who oversees the district’s graduation enhancement program, refused to allow the recognition to disappear.
The coronavirus pandemic has spoiled graduation plans for many families across the country, but for seniors at two Florida schools, missing out on walking across a stage to receive their diplomas means they’ll be crossing high school’s finish line in style: with a lap at the home of the Daytona 500.
The idea came to Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile one night in a dream.
When students return to the classroom this fall, school could look very different.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that schools were considering different options for keeping students apart and limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus.
One scenario: Some students would attend classes in person for two days then another group would attend in-person classes on two different days.
“I’m not saying that’s where we end up,” DeWine said. “My recommendation to schools is to look at different options. Come up with what is unique to you.”
The number of homeless students ballooned in the wake of the Great Recession, and continued to rise even after unemployment rates fell. The economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have appeared faster and are affecting a larger swath of American society, with unemployment claims hitting record highs.
May 7 is the date that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, declared it was safe to open up schools. The state has had fewer than 500 reported cases of the coronavirus as of this week.
At first, Rosalie Ngatchou wanted to go far away to college, to see more of the world and gain independence. A senior at a D.C. charter school, she cast her eyes to an outpost of the State University of New York in Oswego on Lake Ontario.
Now, like many college-bound students, she’s thinking local.
Her mother’s day-care business has closed. Money is tighter. Familiar surroundings feel safer. So Ngatchou is taking a second look at schools closer to home: University of the District of Columbia and George Mason University in Northern Virginia.
As New York City schools struggled to teach 1 million students from home during a deadly pandemic, some good news appeared in late March: the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress earmarked billions for the country’s highest-poverty schools.
Read the full story here.
Beatriz Morales, who only speaks Spanish, has been trying to teach her first grade daughter how to read in English ever since schools closed and Chicago Public Schools rolled out remote learning.
Read full story here.
Chicago Public Schools Kindergartners on Pandemic, Quarantine: Their Thoughts, Fears and Tips for Beating the Coronavirus: ‘Kick it in the Butt!’
Kindergarten is already a time of momentous change for most kids.
Priorities have to be established — how much play time vs. snack time — and lessons have to be learned — the alphabet, numbers and coins, to name a few.
But the pandemic that has disrupted the first year in school for this year’s bunch has made their time of transition that much more challenging.
Over the past week, the Sun-Times spoke to a half-dozen Chicago-area kindergartners, who put the coronavirus pandemic in perspective — their perspective.
School officials from the country’s biggest school districts recently sent a message to Congress: Inject the K-12 system with a serious infusion of cash ahead of what forecasters say is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, or brace for the catastrophic results of hallowed out school budgets.
They paint a nightmare scenario that’s “far more severe and promises to cause much more substantial damage” than the budget cuts that occurred in 2008 during the Great Recession.
Southwest Georgia has seen its share of disasters over the past few years, including tornadoes and hurricanes in 2017 and 2018 that tore through the community, destroying farms and homes and temporarily disrupting schools.
But nothing so far compares to how coronavirus has ravaged this corner of the state, anchored by Albany, the region’s largest city.
No one is sure how and when America’s schools will reopen and what the return of 54 million children isolated at home by the coronavirus shutdown will entail.
“K-12 schools will have the hardest summer they ever had,” said Ben Scafidi, director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University and a former education policy adviser to Govs. Sonny Perdue and Roy Barnes. “There is so much uncertainty.”
State sunshine laws and open meetings acts are meant to promote government transparency and democratic participation. But as COVID-19 has prompted school boards and state educational agencies to shift to virtual meetings, reporters have already seen slippages in adherence to transparency laws.
With big budget deadlines looming and other major decisions being made every day, journalists and analysts are wondering if the move to virtual meetings means virtually zero public input and communication.
‘They Need Our Help’: Free Meals During Coronavirus Will Cost Baltimore-Area Schools Millions Without Aid
At lunchtime on a recent weekday, Shelise Harding and Christine David wheeled a tray cart to the walk-in refrigerator in the kitchen of John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School and loaded it with boxed-to-go meals they’d prepared: fruit, vegetables, tuna sandwiches, crackers, bread and milk.
Bypassing the school’s empty lunch line and the cafeteria tables bearing boxes of Maryland Food Bank donations, food service workers rolled cart after cart of meals to a waiting line of students, parents and others in need at one of the school’s entrances.
She has no time for schoolwork — so Maira Ramirez feels a pang of guilt when her phone buzzes with class assignments while she’s working double shifts at a kosher market to support her financially-strapped family during the pandemic.
Since the coronavirus hit and her mom lost her job as a cleaner, Ramirez has worked 12- to 14-hour shifts many days to help cover her family’s financial gaps. Sometimes she gets to work at 9 a.m. and isn’t able to get to bed until 1 a.m.. She has hardly a minute to spare for the remote learning assignments she needs to graduate this June.
How can journalists who are (mostly) stuck at home during the pandemic continue to cultivate sources and tell compelling stories of the real human experience unfolding for students and families?
Two reporters provide practical advice and strategies in this webinar from the Education Writers Association. How can you make the most of virtually following a student via Zoom as he tries to learn at home? What are the best tools to cast a wide net in your community to identify fresh voices for news coverage?
Coronavirus Separates Student Teachers From Their K-12 and College Classrooms, Forcing Them to Scramble and States to Change License Rules
Around the country, student teachers face a uniquely challenging situation, physically disconnected from both their colleges and the schools where they expected to be student teaching this semester. Many are unable to finish up final tests for teacher licensure and, like most children, teachers and parents, experienced an abrupt transition to remote learning at both institutions. Meanwhile, fewer students have been enrolling in university teacher training programs in recent years, and many school leaders struggle to fill teaching positions every year.