EDITORIAL: Educating Children Post-COVID-19?

Most Americans have accepted the fact that once the COVID-19 pandemic curve flattens, they will have to adjust to a new normal. The way they live, work and relate to colleagues, friends, and loved ones will not be the same as it was pre-COVID-19, at least not for some time. For adults, it will be an adjustment, unlike no other, but memories of how things used to be may provide a degree of solace for them. But for children, it’s going to be an altogether different story.

Just as the nation’s school-aged children were preparing for spring break, the rug was pulled from under them, and schools all across the country closed down, leaving many of them feeling lost, confused, and abandoned by their teachers, classmates, and a daily routine. The disruption is still not fixed, as students returned to a stay-at-home classroom after spending a stay-at-home spring break with limited activities or contact with individuals outside of their home.

The adjustment for most adults has not been an easy one, but for some children, the pandemic lifestyle has been traumatic. More important, educators across the country are looking to other nations, and school districts, to see who has the answer to what education will look like once schools reopen. Will students spend whole days or half days in the classroom? Will school hours or the school year be extended? How will classrooms accommodate students who may still be required to practice social distancing? And, what resources will be available to students who have fallen behind, keeping in mind that nearly every child will fit that description?

Educators are concerned that there are more questions than answers as they begin to map out scenarios and academic plans to match them. There’s no playbook for them to follow because they’ve never had to respond to a situation like this before. And, an added concern is how to address the social and emotional needs of children when they return. As one educator suggests, “children’s social and emotional health is more important than actual classroom instruction.”

While President Trump and lawmakers seek ways to put adults back to work, it is critically important not to lose sight of bringing back quality education for all children who represent the workforce of the future.

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