Since 2020, distance learning has required students and parents to make their homes an extension of the classroom. This has meant households de facto classrooms – often set up in living rooms, bedrooms, or even backyards. While many households made the transition with only minor disruptions, others have found homeschooling more challenging. For instance, in some communities in Mississippi, grammar school students had to walk to local fast-food restaurants to access Wi-Fi and enter the classroom sessions sitting on the parking lot curbs. In others, like D.C., nearly 8,000 children made up a population of shelter-housed students, who had to navigate virtual classrooms with limited privacy, equipment, or focus. Now more than a year into weathering the pandemic, the return to the classroom nears, but many lessons grew from virtual learning.
Here are some of the tips necessary to continue successful learning in the 2021 school year:
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically. This means that those resources – whether in-person or virtual are readily available. In total, the $800 million through the ARP Homeless Children and Youth program is the single largest federal investment dedicated specifically to children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s (OSSE) Homeless Education Program has invited subject matter experts to present on a variety of topics that impact students and families experiencing homelessness. These one-hour monthly webinars are available to LEA/school-based employees, homeless liaisons and community partners. Presentations typically take place on the second Wednesday of each month from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. beginning October 13, 2021. For more information, visit the OSSE website at www.osse.dc.gov/service/homeless
Special Needs (Learning Assessments)
The National Association of School Psychologists published “The Pandemic’s Impact on Special Education Evaluation and SLD Identification,” a resource that describes practical steps that school psychologists and school districts can consider. Fears exist that based on the lack of in-person instruction and a halt to evaluations, some students are likely to return to school with even larger deficits between skill and their new grade-level expectations. which makes class-wide intervention so important. However, there will still be a number of students whose academic deficit persists after class-wide interventions occur. Because student skills may be lower, interventions that seemed effective last year may not be effective this year. The District’s Division of Specialized Instruction Resource Guide offers parents, families, and community members resources to assisting children who may have disabilities or special education needs.
Division of Specialized Instruction Resource Guide – www.dcps.dc.gov
Social-Emotional Learning and COVID Recovery
This school year, through the Trauma Responsive Schools model (TRS), DCPS will begin using social-emotional learning with academic instruction. In establishing five non-negotiable healing-centered practices, DCPS believes it can reset the foundation for safe and inclusive spaces for students to process their feelings. Every teacher will spend dedicated time with their classroom or homeroom students to build relational trust, according to DCPS’s Reopen Strong initiative. “Social-emotional learning doesn’t stop at school. Through our Family Cornerstones, we have activities for families and students to do together to support emotional wellbeing,” said DCPS Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee. For more information, visit www.dcpsreopenstrong.com