Let's Resolve to Get our Kids Back to School
CALEDONIA, Wis., Jan. 12, 2021
CALEDONIA, Wis., Jan. 12, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The following oped is from Dr. Deborah Kerr, Former Superintendent of the Brown Deer School District and immediate past President of the American Association for School Administrators (AASA), who is running for Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Who could have imagined a year ago that a pandemic would force schools to close across the country and so drastically affect our economy? "There's no place like home" became a constant in our lives, as in-person interactions were abruptly suspended last March. Within a week, parents became teachers. Teachers became students learning technology tools to engage with their students in new cyber classrooms. And community leaders became social workers, assisting families in need of food and resources for life's necessities.
When we look back on 2020, I believe we will celebrate a reawakening of support for education, including the Herculean educators, support teams, and school and community leaders who bravely served our kids and communities. The new year presents an opportunity for us to begin recovering from this pandemic, with the first step to return our children to in-person learning.
I propose a statewide plan to return our students and staff to school safely, a plan that is based on evidence-based medical and accelerated learning approaches.
We are at a crisis point in our public schools. Statewide data reveals declining enrollment across Wisconsin; 4K & 5K students are not showing up in virtual school programs. Teachers are burning out, and there is a teacher shortage, not to mention parent fatigue, a stressed workforce, and an impacted economy.
It is time for a statewide recovery plan to return our students to school. It is time to address the learning loss and inequities that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, such as robust broadband access, tech devices, and food insecurity.
My plan includes the development of a stakeholder communication plan with school-based health and safety precautions. We will ensure personnel safety through ongoing collaboration and communication between administrators, building leaders, staff members, students, parents, and health services and health departments. Staff will have adequate PPE along with safety training and clear expectations for student and staff safety protocols. Other key components are:
Start with elementary students going back to in-person instruction, then a gradual release to/from hybrid models for middle and high school students, and then full in-person teaching and learning in all schools.
Provide parents and caregivers with choices on how to serve their children best moving forward - whether in-person or virtual approach.
Support teachers with quality professional development that addresses their mental health and well-being and best practices to address student learning loss.
Implement a transition plan for social and emotional learning activities to welcome students back to school, especially those who did not have closure last year, and quickly reestablish relationships traumatized by school closures.
Use evidence-based acceleration practices to identify learning loss for all students, prioritize grade-level content, and target interventions to ensure growth in specified essential standards.
Support collaborative planning to develop modified school calendars that may require learning opportunities through the summer, evenings, and weekends.
Create innovative school partnerships with community non-profits, universities, and businesses that support the accelerated learning required for all students - high-intensity tutoring, before/after school programs, weekend programs, summer learning academies, evening classes, and online modules, etc.
Work collaboratively with policymakers to support state and federal funding resources to accelerate learning, support training for educators, and recover safely from the pandemic.
Let us learn from others across the country and the world who have safe and successful models in place with a plan to prioritize in-person instruction.
Finally, my plan would allow each district to customize its recovery approach to meet the needs of students, staff, and the school community. No two plans will be the same because no two students, schools, districts, or communities are the same.
As the author, C.S. Lewis, writes, "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." So let's do just that. Together we must promise to reinvest in our students, families, and educators to create a reimagined education system that serves all no matter what sector. This is our call to action - our Wisconsin promise to all students and families. Our Wisconsin prosperity and future depend on it.
Contact: Susie Falk, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Kerr for Wisconsin Kids Committee