Civil beat interviewed one of my foster children and me on these issues. We need to do more to support parents/family to engage with school and learning — their children will benefit, the parents will benefit, and our schools will befit.
In order to build trust with families to return to in-person learning, they suggest:
• Communicate frequently with families – in their home language – and work to build their confidence that children will be safe in-person; • Encourage and provide access to vaccinations for eligible students and staff; • Implement COVID-19 testing in schools; • Address ventilation needs where applicable; • Implement universal indoor masking; • Maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk. Because of the importance of in-person learning, schools should implement physical distancing to the extent possible within their structures, but should not exclude students from in-person learning to keep a minimum distance requirement. When it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining these distances, it is especially important to layer multiple other prevention strategies, such as screening testing; • Provide safe transportation; • Provide affordable child care; and • Ensure access to healthy meals and other basic needs
This post is part of LPI’s Learning in the Time of COVID-19blog series, which explores evidence-based and equity-focused strategies and investments to address the current crisis and build long-term systems capacity.
School buildings are closed for nearly all of the country’s 50.8 million public school students, and those being hit the hardest are the nation’s most marginalized students—more than 52% in 2016–17. For these students, school closures can mean the loss not only of precious learning time but also of essential services such as meals and medical and mental health services that mitigate the stresses of poverty.
But there are schools that continue to support student learning and well-being—among them, community schools. The country’s community schools are designed to serve the whole child (addressing learning and well-being) and are based on the understanding that children are better positioned to learn when they are healthy, well fed, and safe. The United States has thousands of community schools serving millions of students already. Among these schools, 2,300 are part of the nonprofit network Communities in Schools. The nonprofit Coalition for Community Schools network supports some 5,000 community schools across the country.
Although there are other schools around the country that use some of the strategies of community schools and have also successfully responded to student and family needs, community schools are unique in that they have formalized and powered up these supports around four “pillars”—medical and mental services, extended learning time, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership among staff. They hire dedicated staff such as community schools coordinators to organize services for students and families through partnerships with nonprofit and government organizations, including health clinics, food banks, tutoring, and after-school programs. As we begin to rebuild and rethink schooling, this is a highly effective, research-based approach that policymakers can look to.As we begin to rebuild and rethink schooling, [community schools are] a highly effective, research-based approach that policymakers can look to.
Because community schools prioritize relationships with family members—often offering social services and classes for parents and guardians—they were already deeply rooted in their students’ lives and had relationships and infrastructures in place when COVID-19 hit that enabled them to mobilize support services and connect with their students and families meaningfully and quickly. (continued)
CPRL is recommending that institutions expand the definition of “high-quality instructional materials” to incorporate the three added factors that had a demonstrable impact on student achievement. According to CPRL: “Researchers from CPRL found that high-quality instructional materials are strongest and most impactful when dimensions of “high-quality” are expanded from being aligned to standards to also include being:
1) tech enabled, 2) culturally responsive and sustaining, and 3) designed to enhance families’ ability to guide student learning and instruction.
The pandemic has been hard on all schools, districts, teachers, students, and families. And it has posed intense challenges for Superintendents. Relations between Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Hawai‘i teachers, and finally the Board of Education made her choice not to pursue a new term a graceful exit.
After years of resistance to implementing technology and systems in learning, the pandemic forced it. Now we need leadership to uplift teachers, transform learning by implementing technology in more measured and creative ways, and create the family engagement and community integration that can surround our students with support.