When D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a few months ago that the District’s public schools, due to COVID-19, would close for the rest of the year, most citizens agreed with the decision. Some parents even voiced encouragement given Bowser’s promised commitment to ensure the education of our youth with remote learning.
Meanwhile, neighboring school districts in Virginia and Maryland followed suit under the directive of Govs. Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan, respectively.
Bowser said the District would work to ensure that students would be properly equipped for distance learning with plans to distribute up to 16,000 devices and 5000 hotspots, as well as continuing the distribution of meals for students who needed them. Whether that goal was achieved has yet to be officially determined.
Nonetheless, with school doors officially shuttered until the fall as of Friday, May 29, we fear that those youth with the greatest intellectual, emotional and economical challenges will bear the brunt of the over two-month interruption to their daily, in-class instruction.
Even with summer school — a program that has yet to be formally configured — many students will enter the fall, if in-class instruction can even safely resume given the impact of the health pandemic, facing an almost six-month hiatus from daily interaction with and support from their teachers and counselors.
Said another way, both the digital divide and the achievement gap — already proven to be huge, gaping holes when comparing students of color to their white counterparts — will inevitably grow even wider.
So far little has been said about how far back children in school districts where significantly fewer dollars are available for instruction, support and upgrades will find themselves. In fact, the end of the school year remained little more than a footnote given other news reports including the police-involved death of George Floyd, Donald Trump’s outrageous response including his photo opp on the grounds of a local Episcopal church and what has grown into almost a week of protests and additional deaths.
Yes, school’s out for the summer. But will our leaders have a game plan ready in the fall?