What will “school” look like in the Fall?
This question has been in the minds of administrators, teachers, staff, and students. Will schools be able to go back to the way they were before (and should we?), will we still be operating under “remote learning”, or will we have some combination?
If the current (Ohio) Department of Health recommendations hold until school resumes for the 2020-2021 school year, here are my thoughts on how to best make use of available resources while taking steps to provide a safe environment for all.
— Some of your students will do just fine under “remote learning”. They have the skill, the means, and the support to achieve expected outcomes without setting foot in the building. Let those students stay home and learn with remote feedback and support.
— Take the rest of your students, and put them in 3 or 4 groups. No, don’t “ability group” or “level” them. Mix them up. Let’s say you have 3 groups, and we’ll call them “A”, “B”, and “C”. Bring Group A in for the first week of school. All day, all week. The “core” subject teachers should expose the students to new material, and preview what they will learn for the next two weeks. Arts and other specialized subjects should be a big part of students’ experience. Groups B and C will stay home this week and participate in online instruction. For Week 2, Group B comes to the building and Groups A and C participate in online instruction.
— For a small percentage of your students, uninterrupted daily presence in the building is essential. These students need the most support, and depend on many specialized services they receive at school. These students should be scheduled to be in school every day. Every. Day. Scheduling them for two days a week while scheduling the gifted honors dual-credit senior two days a week sounds “equal”, but it is by no means equitable or fair.
— Allow students to have more than whatever the minimum state requirement is for lunch.
— Forget the seven or eight equal-timed class periods. Divide the day into twenty-minute segments and have a different small group of students moving at those twenty-minute intervals. Some classes may only meet for 40 minutes (two twenty-minute segments). Some may meet for three or four. Just don’t put all of your students in the hallway at the same time. Teachers in “departmentalized” schedules shouldn’t have to be in class with students for more than half of the school day under this system. The rest of their day can be used to provide feedback and assistance to remote learners. Students in self-contained classrooms should still have about half of their day in specialized courses, recess, literacy/library support,
— Most of all, remember that the system is supposed to be there to support the students. The students aren’t there to support our system. We must not try to force our comfortable routines to fit an extraordinary situation, and then complain that the job can’t be done when we find that we can’t do things the way we’ve always done them.
We can do this. We can do things we’ve never been able to do before, if we are willing to make the best use possible of what we have available.