Wake Up Call
An Article Written By Sean Lavin – Originally released Sun Aug 26, 2020
The first week of school is in the books for most of the County’s school age children. To claim any measure of success for this week would have to admit a lowered standard of the goals from any other year. With multiple missteps, technical issues and general confusion among all concerned, the start of the school year has resulted in frustration and lack of confidence in this “system” and overall approach to “remote learning”. In short, I think the local school system will look forward to a fresh new start next week. I believe most others, if they were making an honest evaluation, would declare “We are in a Public Education crisis.”
I sound this alarm as a lifelong proponent of Public Education. I understand the benefits and rich history of providing so many individuals the ability to move from beneath the poverty line, even to reach great heights of wealth and success. I believe that robust, healthy and competitive public education systems bring long-lasting benefits to all levels of demographics and have the ability to positively impact every individual in their communities. Most local public district may be facing a drastic restructuring as a consequence of the pandemic response.
Facing threats of loss of funding streams, operational planning surrounding returning safely, and employees at all levels that have individual expectations of what it would take for them to return to the classroom, there are no shortage of challenges for public schools.
On the other side, I think most parents will sit down at some point this weekend and do some real soul searching. What am I doing to myself and my child? Are there better options out there that fit our life and lifestyle? Am I working this hard for grades that won’t count again? What if they do count? —Without bringing into the question the curriculum being taught (one of the most commonly heard arguments for movement away from public schools) the format of instruction and schedule have now become a differentiating factor among private, public and charter schools in the region.
After what I’ve seen so far, the local system should be worried about both the near-term and long-term impacts to their decision to stay remote, especially in the younger grades. I don’t think many parents appreciate the distinctions flaunted between the “remote learning” and homeschooling. If any do, they’re apt to point out certain conveniences the homeschoolers have over the “remote learners” and the schedules imposed by the district. Many districts honestly recognize the demands of remote learning and the schedule conflict of the instructional time and are allowing teachers with children of their own to bring them into the schools (where no other children are allowed). Still other systems, recognizing the conflict, have hired staff to watch, oversee and tend to the children of their workforce during the school day. Other options, all of them, are on the table for many other working parents.
Parents are already withdrawing in alarming numbers to enroll in both private and public charter school options. Many have some form of in-class instructional time for their young children. In the local area, private schools boast enrollments never seen before. The local charter school also has record enrollments and is closing in on becoming the largest school within the County. These parents won’t just leave the public schools for a few weeks or a semester. Many will make the moves for good, allowing their children to establish or strengthen new relationships with other students and faculty. And this is happening all over our great state and country.
Within the State, the push for school of choice, vouchers and allotments to private schools will continue to grow and gain traction. Parents will take the funding from the schools with each child that leaves. I think they make a strong argument to be able to bring those funds wherever they land. That may be the shift that is needed to ensure Public Education adapts and stays competitive and relevant in the future. If not, the widening of the education gap will have already begun, and it will have been hastened by the pandemic reaction.
Students need to get back into the classroom. With good planning and execution, I don’t believe we can do that too soon. Offer the remote learning to higher grades, but understand that this region lacks the infrastructure that allows all residents to have broadband access and remote really is not a viable option for some. Offer the remote learning in the lower grades, but have that in-classroom option for the students that will excel in that type of environment or need to establish the relationships and skills prior to any remote situation.
All the data shows in-class is the best environment for the academic success and social wellbeing of our children, especially the youngest. Parents understand that and will continue to do what’s best for the development of their children. We need to make sure our Public Education and our local district remain focused on what is best for our children. So, I ask – How are the children?
Sean Lavin is a Pasquotank County Commissioner