The Impact of Coronavirus on Public Schools

The Impact of Coronavirus on Public Schools
As schools around the country close for two weeks or more, parents find themselves asking some tough questions. Read on to learn about the current and future impact of COVID-19 on students in public schools.

During the initial weeks of the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, authorities and lawmakers found themselves faced with some difficult decisions. When the threat to domestic health and public safety became clear, so did the necessity of not just encouraging but enforcing social distancing rules.

As more school districts send their students home, it leaves parents wondering not only what to do with their children during the break but how the break will affect progress.

Information about COVID-19 continues to develop while state and local legislators do their best to follow CDC and federal recommendations. The health and safety of the American public always comes first, but recent events bring into question the long-term effects of the measures taken to ensure public safety. Read on to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 school closures now and into next year.

School Closures for COVID-19

As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, local and national government officials began to question whether social distancing recommendations were enough. In the last week, school districts all over the nation have announced temporary closures. The United States isn’t alone in these actions. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), governments in 113 countries have closed educational institutions. Over 100 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting nearly an estimated 850 million children and youth.

How Will It Affect Testing and Progress?

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented by the Bush administration in 2001, standardized testing has become a way of life in public schools. The act required all states receiving funding for schools to test their students annually. Schools that fall below certain score requirements are penalized, and it may affect funding in the future.

During the COVID-19 crisis, students around the country are home from school. Though some degree of learning can and should continue in the home environment, formal and standardized education has come to a pause. Schools are working in conjunction with CDC recommendations as well as local and state departments of education to keep students and faculty safe. The implications of the COVID-19 school closures are yet unclear, but no testing is taking place while students are out of school.

For many schools, these closures overlap with spring break. In these cases, spring break has simply been extended and regular instruction is expected to resume when the CDC deems it safe to do so.

Another concern with the COVID-19 closures is in regard to minimum instructional hours required by law. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most states in 2018 required a minimum of 180 days of instruction, or about 990 instructional hours. Recent school closures will undoubtedly affect these hours, leaving school districts to wonder whether they’ll be expected to make up for the loss at the end of the year.

The answer to this question may vary on a state by state basis. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has issued a statement that any school district that requests the hour requirement be waived will have it granted. Other states are likely to do the same.

Home-Schooling Tips for Parents

With the closure of schools across the nation, many parents find themselves the position of homeschooling their children – often while performing their own jobs at home. It can be challenging to walk the line between keeping your children learning while also keeping them occupied so you can do your own work. It’s a fine line to walk between becoming a full-time homeschooling parent and managing your own responsibilities.

Here are some tips to help you figure out the best course of action:

  • Check your school’s website. Many schools have provided learning packets or full online classes for students available through the website. New York City even provides grade-by-grade guidance for parents at home.
  • Create a schedule that works for you. It’s important to maintain some sense of structure during the break, but don’t try to schedule every minute of the day. Stick to your normal bedtime and wakeup routine and include time for lessons, chores, exercise, solo play, and family time.
  • Take advantage of free online resources. You can find just about anything online from free art lessons to dance classes – anything to keep your children busy and active. Khan Academy is also a great free resource for online instructional videos.
  • Make time for reading. Just because your child isn’t at school doesn’t mean he can’t be practicing important skills. Give your children daily reading assignments or tune in to daily read-alouds online.
  • Check out free educational websites. There are plenty of educational websites out there and many are offering free subscriptions during school closures. Scholastic learn-at-home offers free online resources including 20 days of lessons (up to 3 hours a day) for grades pre-K through 9.
  • Print online activity sheets. If your children aren’t old enough for instructional videos or independent learning, you can find plenty of activity sheets to print out online as well as ideas for crafts and activities. It’s the perfect time to drag out the craft supplies you’ve been keeping in the closet.

No one expects you to be able to take over your child’s education at the drop of a hat, but that doesn’t mean your child’s time off from school should be spent playing video games. With online resources and a little creativity, you can keep your children busy and learning for their own benefit and your sanity.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

The situation with COVID-19 changes on a daily basis. All we can do is follow CDC recommendations for social distancing and do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. In regards to your child’s education, important decisions will be made in the future but here are some answers to common questions. Keep in mind that these answers may change as the situation develops.

1. Are remote and online learning opportunities available?

School closures apply primarily to school buildings while internet- and computer-based schools are encouraged to continue normal operations. The availability of remove and online learning opportunities depends on the options available at the local level. Depending on the grade level, some schools may be able to offer online learning opportunities, though individual student access may vary.

2. Will school closures affect funding?

Foundation funding for both traditional and joint vocational school districts is not expected to change. Legislators and departments of education are working to ensure that the closures do not have a negative impact on students or place an additional financial burden on schools affected.  

3. How will school closures affect attendance requirements?

Some schools have a policy of withdrawing students automatically after a 72-hour absence without a legitimate excuse. Many states have recognized the challenges of tracking student attendance in the current circumstances and have deemed students to be in attendance during any non-spring-break periods included in the closures. Details vary by state.

4. Are remote learning opportunities available for students with no Internet access?

The options will vary depending on the circumstances but, unfortunately, there may be no viable options for online instruction in some cases. In addition to schools, many public libraries and community centers have also temporarily closed. That being said, many utility companies in affected areas are offering free or discounted internet services to affected students and families.

5. Will the closure affect student report cards?

It’s impossible to say at this point what specific impact school closures will have. Many parents are concerned that an interruption in the school year might result in an inaccurate portrayal of student performance on report cards, but there is no intention of penalizing schools for conditions beyond their control. The U.S. Department of Education will work with individual states to adjust requirements as needed in the coming months.

6. What about graduation for seniors in high school?

It is up to individual schools to determine the extent to which seniors have met graduation requirements. The U.S. Department of Education may offer flexibility in the graduation requirements for the Class of 2020, though it is the school’s responsibility to help their students complete requirements by the end of the year as much as it is in their power to do so.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted the entire nation and many countries around the world. The primary concern is maintaining the health and safety of the American public which means limiting the spread of the disease through social distancing. As the situation resolves, necessary steps will become clear and government and school districts will work together to ensure that normal life resumes as quickly as possible with no detriment to student education or progress.

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