Today's parents are faced with a difficult choice: do you send your kids back to school or do you keep them home?
Even if you decide to send them back, there's likely going to be a time when the district implements hybrid learning or restricts it to at-home only, depending on how severe the COVID-19 pandemic is in your area. That doesn't mean schools will be woefully unprepared, as many were this past spring. Instead, there are many steps they're taking to bring online learning to the next level.
Framework and Software
Having the right software and framework is critical for schools. Last spring, they were bewildered — many had never done this before. However, they've had the summer to prepare and that should show at the start of the new school year. Platforms like Curriki.org simplify online learning by making classes and classwork easy to access with an immersive interface — for anyone, even if you have zero technical skills. Google Classrooms is another program many use because of its widespread availability.
Scheduling and Hybrid Learning
Most have gotten used to the online learning style since they had no choice but to do so. Since the pandemic really hasn't quelled, but rather is still presenting a high risk to people, it's more important than ever to have an adequate plan in place. Many schools are offering a hybrid course schedule, where kids attend classes in person for two or three days and do online learning the rest of the week.
This means more technology and more tools to help keep classes and schools streamlined. Gradebooks are important and teachers must stay on top of students who may be falling behind. Not everyone's home situation is the same, not everyone has a dedicated space and distractions are bound to happen. If coursework presents a real issue, there needs to be a solution for this, too.
Zoom and Google Hangout Classes
Two popular programs for teachers to reach students for live lessons are Zoom and Google Hangouts. Both of these have video capabilities and allow multiple people to attend a single session. Plus, teachers can restrict who can talk at any time, making it impossible for one or two students to take over the classroom and be disruptive as they could in a physical setting. It's also easy to set up these accounts, both are free for attendees — there's nothing to pay out-of-pocket.
Laptops and Internet Service
Many schools recognize that not everyone has a reliable computer at home. Many have stocked up on laptops — namely Chromebooks — to distribute to students to use. If parents can't afford internet service, schools are providing that, too, for free. It's part of ensuring that no student is left behind due to circumstances that are out of their control. Parents who need these, if they're not already offered them, should contact the school district's superintendent to see what options are available to them. Internet providers are also offering free or low-cost services to families who can prove hardship.
There's no doubt that the school landscape this year is going to look different, but it doesn't have to be impossible. School administrators have had time to develop more in-depth plans, whereas back in March, they were thrown into the fray. Many are starting virtually to protect children from the spread and will likely move to a hybrid distance-learning system as necessary. By taking the above steps, they're ensuring that families and children are provided for, as best as they can be, as we enter these unchartered waters.
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