While some issues are common across the board as schools reopen and classes begin in hybrid and fully remote settings, professionals in the K-12 sphere are tasked with addressing different challenges. Tomorrow, we are hosting a webinar, K-12: Back In Session, to address all of these individual concerns and encourage you to join your peers there live.
We’ve recruited CEO of Cleveland Metro Schools Eric Gordon, Educational Evangelist Steven Anderson and K-12 District Management Group Consultant Rachel Klein to address challenges and offer solutions to the reopening process during these unprecedented times.
In the meantime, here are the key items we’re hearing from our education community. Many of these insights were derived directly from Dr. Misty Cobb who has been in constant communication with peers at every level of the educational institution and will be moderating the event live.
They’re most concerned about students and ensuring learning opportunities provided are equitable. Parents are relying on others, such as grandparents or caregivers, especially if they’re working during this time. There are many disadvantages to remote learning that simply can’t be solved with more money or time. School district leaders can’t buy enough technology to fill the gap to support the learning of a child at home and educators need to offer more instruction to parents as well. In specific districts, some parents are keeping their children at home for safety reasons, but there’s a preconceived notion that their child will be occupied on Zoom all day long. Parents wrongly assume that teachers will be ‘watching’ their kids via Zoom, but that’s not the reality. Additionally, educators are asked with offering rotational virtual learning days and splitting students into Groups A and B. Students are being asked to do things they’re not capable of doing on their own. Teachers are facing the question of “How do I close the gap and provide an equitable experience for students without a support network at home, reliable connectivity, children who can’t advocate for themselves, parents who don’t know what to ask for whether it be a better working computer or a voucher for Internet service?” Educators are trying to account for all of these challenges and make plans to address them, but the opportunities for students are often just not the same.
Directors of Accessibility & Special Education Providers
These professionals have the same concerns as educators, but are also dealing with specific instances where technologies like Verbit’s can assist with providing accommodations and meeting ADA compliance. The challenge is that so many accommodations which are needed can’t be fulfilled with tech alone. Sometimes tech can even make it worse. For example, physical touch is often needed to refocus the attention of students with varied learning needs, such as a child with autism who may be highly distracted. At a distance, we need new ways to refocus these students but without documentation and research. While deaf or HoH students can utilize captioning and transcription solutions like Verbit’s, other disabilities are harder to accommodate remotely.
Principals & School Directors
These individuals need to take into account all of the above plus budgets. They need to consider one-time costs versus on-going costs, but so much is still unknown. The pandemic presents a novel environment. There’s also backlash from parents and the expectations of parents to consider, as well as the wellbeing of the teachers they’re responsible for. Additionally, there’s a shift in the ability to hire and staff teachers. The pandemic is bringing about early retirements due to safety concerns, among others. There’s also a new burden of teaching technologies needed for remote learning to all educators. Principals and school leadership are already faced with drawing teachers into poorer-performing schools and finding even more challenges with educator recruitment now.
These leaders have some of the steepest challenges as they’re faced with entire districts of students and teachers. They’re considering all of the issues noted above with the added stress of board member concerns and a need to report into the Board of Education. They need to consider the needs and concerns of the local board and are often faced with making decisions that are the right ones but also will help them to be re-elected. Effective superintendents put their districts first, but politics come into play. These individuals also need to be prepared for large-scale plans should an outbreak occur. They need to consider plans for one school and they may impact other schools. They need to understand how to allocate and control resources for the entire district. They need to consider that there’s often no one-size-fits-all approach to implement across schools. They need to consider transportation for in-person days and how to handle buses when students cannot walk to school, grants for Wi-Fi and the needs of city schools versus country schools.
All of these individuals are faced with an unprecedented time with which little research of best practices exist. Solutions can only be uncovered from testing and from collaboration with each other. We’ll aim to facilitate more collaboration during our K-12: Back In Session event. We’re also here to help provide guidance on any questions or concerns you may have, especially with regard to creating accessible environments which offer equal opportunities to students whenever possible.