Note: This was originally written for and published by 7billionones.org on March 20, 2020)
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans daily are learning that today’s “normal” doesn’t look like last week’s normal life, and next week isn’t likely to look like this week either.
Nowhere has that been more evident than in our education system in the country. With little to no notice, schools around the country began to shut down almost immediately, leaving schools and parents alike asking, “Now what?” To complicate matters, one also has to remember that for many, school is more than just a place of learning. It is also where so many of our disadvantaged children get two meals a day, and possibly their best meals that they see on a daily basis.
The task appeared to be daunting. How do you turn a traditional brick-and-mortal school that serves children on multiple levels into one that does the same for children at home during a pandemic? But from the crisis arose collaboration and a “can do” spirit that defines teachers, administrators, and all other support staff within the walls of a school.
In hours, schools brainstormed and turned ideas into action plans. There was no time to wait for state or national agencies to offer much to local schools. Educators had to develop plans quickly.
The first solution for continuing school at home was to go virtual, but what about kids of poverty who may not have access to the proper equipment for that? Teachers and aides decided for those children that they would print out packets for each child. In some cases, parents picked those up, while in other cases bus drivers were used to deliver printed packets to parents and children. Plans have even developed for children who simply cannot find a way to get the work done at all during this time away.
Meal assistance was similarly planned to meet the needs of the community. Schools and cafeteria staffs developed strategies that allow for parents to pick up meals without having to worry about being in close contact with others. Pick up sites away from schools were designated. And, just like with printed packets for instruction, in some cases buses were also used to deliver meals to families who had no way of getting to a pick up site.
Parents have been amazing as well. Trying to help your child through the at-home assignments can be difficult sometimes, but parents have accepted the challenge head on, developing daily schedules and keeping to a standard of instruction even while working one or two jobs. Many have even added new enrichment activities on their own.