One of the things that I’ve loved since girlhood was the close of summer and the return to school. Even then, I believe there was something about stimulating my mind — learning new things, creating ideas, and experimenting through problems for workable solutions — that made education an adventure. Well, this year, unlike any in recent history, educational systems are being challenged to find new and innovative ways to strengthen young minds. And like any other school year, I believe parents, educators and students will rise to the occasion of this new adventure.
While it is true that the pandemic and social unrest that have come to define 2020 also impact quite strongly how the academic year begins, it does not have to become an educational albatross weighted about the shoulders of the nation. This is, after all, America — a nation founded upon the principle of relying less on resources than on resourcefulness. And in the same manner that once-poorly funded (or defunded) school districts across the nation created streams of educational capital to fill in the gaps, our obligation to young minds is to pitch in where needed.
Be clear, I am not speaking of money, necessarily, but of assisting households that need a bit of extra help to ensure children and young adults matriculate successfully. For instance, a 2019-2020 Point-in-Time count of homelessness in the District found 2,433 homeless families with 1,420 children documented as homeless.
During a virtual board meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on June 10, the issue of homelessness was addressed in relation to the city’s recovery from COVID-19. “Homelessness was a serious challenge in our region pre-pandemic, but the COVID-19 impact brings new urgency to addressing the crisis,” Tony Turnage, assistant director of the Prince William Homeless Services Division and co-chair of the COG Homeless Services Committee noted. “It’s clear, housing must be central to the conversations about the region’s recovery plans.”
Likewise, education must be equally central. Students are still required to perform, learn, and master information irrespective of their domiciles or lack thereof. Consider sponsoring a homeless or financially strapped family this school year so that basic supplies — including hygiene kits of masks, hand sanitizers, deodorant, and feminine products — are readily available and do not hinder young minds from focusing on their coursework.
Many households in the DMV are also led by senior citizens caring for their grandchildren which means technology may be somewhat confusing to navigate. Mask up and volunteer to help demonstrate modems, laptops, the Blackboard system, and emails for your elderly neighbors. Additionally, DCPS accepts donations of school supplies, schoolbooks for students’ coursework and home libraries, interactive white boards, computers, and hygiene kits. Check their website (https://dcps.dc.gov/service/make-donation-dcps) for additional information.
As Gladys Knight once sang, “as bad as these days may be for you, they will be the ‘good old days’ for your children and grandchildren.” We owe it to young people to make these uncertain times as enriching and bountiful as possible. Let them grow into adults that remember how the communities around them pulled together to make the 2020-2021 school year a great, (though challenging) adventure. In this Informer supplement, Reading, (W)riting and Resources: Distance and Digital Learning Under COVID-19, we invite you to examine the tools necessary for a winning school year.
Read, Learn, Grow.