Act to Officially Close and Fund Our Schools without Distance Learning Requirements during the COVID-19 Crisis

We are in a global health crisis. We must actually close our schools for the safety and education of our kids, and the safety and respect for the work of our teachers.

Sample Letter on the Impact of School closings for State and Federal Leaders.


Dear (Your Elected Representatives Names),

As you are aware, our State and our Nation (and indeed, the World) are in a state of crisis right now under the COVID-19 pandemic. More and more Counties are under a “Shelter in Place” order in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Most schools are closed (as of March 19, 2020, schools are closed in 41 states).

This is a scary time for everyone, but none more than our children.

Currently, most (if not all) schools are making attempts to put “Distance Learning” plans into place. I want to share my thoughts on these “plans” and also make a sincere request that you carefully consider whether Distance Learning will be effective for all children, and whether it will accomplish what it seems to be trying to do: to replace school – through the instruction (or management) of parents and guardians.

I believe that concept of Distance Learning is problematic for many reasons.

This is a time of crisis where families are distraught, some are living in fear of losing their jobs and homes and some have been diagnosed or fear that they have been exposed to the virus.

Distance Learning leaves many children and families behind.

English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities (and their families), some of whom rely on in-home support persons, or who have other health, social or mobility impacts, are potentially even more severely impacted at this time.

To pretend that we can just “resume” or “continue” or “replace” education at home, when so much else is involved in this health crisis, is unfair to our kids and families. Not all parents have the resources to support kids during this shift to what is essentially “home schooling.” Children are highly distracted, especially those with certain disabilities, and most parents, if they are lucky enough to have the option, are attempting to work from home to ensure financial sustainability for their families.

Teachers should be safe, too.

As most of us sit in the relative comfort of a “shelter in place” order, teachers have been (and some still are) at their schools preparing materials and potentially putting themselves in harms way by personally distributing materials to families. Teachers should also be “sheltering in place” if that is the order for their regions.

School is closed, and teachers should be at home with their families as we all adjust to this new normal.

Is distance learning a requirement?

It is unclear whether, even if schools are officially CLOSED for all business by the State, Districts may risk the loss of funding sources, which are already scarce, if they do not make a reasonable effort to continue educating their students under a Distance Learning plan, even if all students might not have access to their education under such a Plan due to various circumstances, including being in the midst of a global health crisis.

In California, Governor Newsom’s Executive Order “Ensuring State Funding for Schools Even in Event of Physical Closure, signed on March 13, 2020, “MANDATES that school districts use dollars to fund DISTANCE LEARNING and high quality educational opportunities, safely provide school meals, and arrange for the supervision of students during school hours.” Press Release Link.

School is Closed.

We all want our children to be educated, but in a time of crisis we need to pause and remember that other issues might be more important in the short-term, rather than hurrying up to find a replacement for “school” – and we should have hight respect for the professional work of our teachers in educating students, and understand the realistic problems with immediately “replacing” school at home with parents and guardians at the helm.

A 3rd grade teacher in the Palo Alto Unified School District shared the following – “There is no way at home learning can replace school. I’m amazed everyone doesn’t understand how distance learning creates inequity. Our district is providing ideas for parents with no expectations that they do them. We’re not sending home big packets or teaching online. Of course I’ll be checking in with my kiddos—I’m really going to miss them!”

Teachers know who their Distance Learning plans are reaching and who they are not. They know the realities of the stress that the current crisis is having on all their students and that the impact will not be the same for all, especially those with fewer resources or more needs.

Be in community with parents and teachers during this unprecedented crisis.

It is incumbent upon our leaders to allay these fears, and to take steps that will make it unnecessary for our schools to attempt to deliver “replacement” education during this global health crisis, when we know that it will not be “accessible” to all students for equity and ability-related reasons. Distance Learning is also likely to be challenging for many students who have no discernible barriers to mainstream education, given family stressors and other inconsistencies in their schedules at this time.

Notably, equity considerations & students with disabilities were not at the forefront of the swift Distance Learning planning. The students in these demographics, who stand to be least served by Distance Learning, are the same students that are historically and currently the lowest performing academic groups in the Country.

Please consider advocating in any possible way in favor of giving Districts the option to “close” school operations until this crisis has passed, rather than deliver an unfair “replacement” educational plan, and alleviate all fears of loss of funding for Districts that rightfully acknowledge that they can not reach all students via Distance Learning.

It is the right thing to do.

It will show your compassion for our community in this time of unprecedented crisis.

Sincerely,

(YOUR NAME)

p.s. This was posted online by a Special Education teacher, and I think that it really says everything:Top of Form

Dear parents with school aged children who are about to start day one of remote learning from an educator and mom:

You might be inclined to create a minute by minute schedule for your kids. You have high hopes of hours of learning, including online activities, science experiments, and book reports. You’ll limit technology until everything is done! But here’s the thing…

Our kids are just as scared as we are right now. Our kids not only can hear everything that is going on around them, but they feel our constant tension and anxiety. They have never experienced anything like this before. Although the idea of being off of school for 4 weeks sounds awesome, they are probably picturing a fun time like summer break, not the reality of being trapped at home and not seeing their friends.

Over the coming weeks, you will see an increase in behavior issues with your kids. Whether it’s anxiety, or anger, or protest that they can’t do things normally – it will happen. You’ll see more meltdowns, tantrums, and oppositional behavior in the coming weeks. This is normal and expected under these circumstances.

What kids need right now is to feel comforted and loved. To feel like it’s all going to be ok. And that might mean that you tear up your perfect schedule and love on your kids a bit more. Play outside and go on walks. Bake cookies and paint pictures. Play board games and watch movies. Do a science experiment together or find virtual field trips of the zoo. Start a book and read together as a family. Snuggle under warm blankets and do nothing.

Don’t worry about them regressing in school. Every single kid is in this boat and they all will be ok. When we are back in the classroom, we will all course correct and meet them where they are. Teachers are experts at this! Don’t pick fights with your kids because they don’t want to do math. Don’t scream at your kids for not following the schedule. Don’t mandate 2 hours of learning time if they are resisting it.

If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: at the end of all of this, your kids’ mental health will be more important than their academic skills. And how they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those 4 weeks is long gone. So keep that in mind, every single day.

Stay safe.

Love to you all,
Erin”

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