It was a “learn as you go” alternative for students, teachers and parents.
No one expected a global pandemic would force schools to close their classrooms and require teachers and students to resort to online instruction and learning.
We’ve learned two things. First, that it can be done. Second, that both instruction and, in most cases, students’ academic achievement fall short of the results compared to classroom teaching.
Last spring, Marin educators hoped that classrooms would be re-opened for the mid-August start of the new school year. That optimism eroded as coronavirus cases spiked across the state. Marin was not immune to this trend.
Now, local educators are hoping that classroom instruction can return — with strict COVID-19 prevention measures — but the school year will begin online.
Its effectiveness should improve in both the quality gained from training and experience, as well as schools being prepared to make sure that students have the equipment, online connections and necessary support.
In the Mill Valley School District, teachers and administration have reached an accord.
It has been a public struggle, with some parents demanding a return to classroom instruction and teachers understandably wary of the safety for students, themselves and their families.
While those parents insisted on their children’s return to classrooms, other parents are going to have to be convinced it is safe. Keeping parents informed about plans and changes is important in building that trust and confidence.
Mill Valley safety standards agreed to after negotiations between the school board and the teachers union should help.
The state, recognizing that getting kids back into classrooms is a pivotal step in getting their parents back to work, has been pushing for the safe re-opening of public schools.
Across Marin, that is going to have to wait until the county’s coronavirus caseload falls to the point that Marin is dropped from the state virus watchlist.
In Marin, returning to classrooms is expected to be a hybrid involving both in-classroom learning and online instruction. That approach, which includes scheduling changes, is designed to keep classroom sizes small in order to maintain social distancing.
Most districts will continue to offer online distance learning for children whose parents remain unsure that it is safe to send their children back to classrooms.
Getting every child back to their teachers and their classrooms continues to be the ultimate goal. It’s not going to be fully back to normal until the risk of coronavirus dissipates, most likely with the production and distribution of a safe vaccine.
The focus right now is on learning and teaching safely, while preparing, hopefully soon, for a return to classroom instruction.
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