By Lauri Hennessey, League of Education Voters CEO

 

Dear Friends,

By now, many of you have heard that all public and private schools in Washington state will be closed at least through April 24th due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Here at League of Education Voters, our mission is to put students first, “working with families, educators, and leaders to build a brighter future for every Washington student.”

How do we do that in today’s uncertain world?

First of all: we should not dispute the decisions made by Governor Inslee, Superintendent Reykdal, and local school districts. These decisions are agonizing and not made lightly. We all need to support our leaders in education.

However, there are severe costs. No matter what we do, kids are going to fall behind in the next month because of this health crisis. This will be the first time some school districts try to offer distance learning to all students, and we don’t know how it will work, especially for those in grades PreK-5. The ramifications in all of our schools will be huge.

Beyond that, there are other impacts on the families we represent. Many parents cannot afford to take six weeks (or more) away from their jobs, don’t have the ability to work from home, or cannot take extended sick leave. What happens to these parents? And what about the kids who rely on free and reduced-price meals? How will extended closures affect our most vulnerable children?

With all of these realities, I find it reassuring to try to focus on what we CAN do. The League will be a clearinghouse of information. Here are a few resources to start off:

How will kids make up the learning? It’s unclear at this time as the situation is so fluid. The Superintendent of Public Instruction’s (OSPI) office is saying kids should not have to keep up during the period, giving this crisis an equity lens. In other words, Rhett Nelson, Director of Alternative Learning Programs for OSPI said: “It might be better to close the school and make up the days later, rather than offering instruction that excludes some districts.” It’s important to note that every school is handling this issue differently.

We will survive this. When we do, we will want to look at how we did and look at how distance learning performs (or does not). There will be many opportunities to discuss and learn from the experience, and we hope you will join us in this reflection.

Please know League of Education Voters is here for you. Let us know if you have programs or ideas, leads, or innovative approaches, and we will share them with other parents. Come to us if you have ideas for how we can help or for what is or is not working. If you have resources to share with others, please contact contact us.

We are also here for teachers, superintendents, and school board members in this incredibly difficult time. Whatever decisions you are now making, there are undoubtedly people who disagree. It is not easy and we will not judge you as you try to navigate through this unprecedented crisis.

Finally, on a personal note, here is some wisdom gleaned from a colleague of mine in public health: “Things may not be normal for a while and the faster we accept that and work together, the better off we will be as a society going forward. Listen to the people who are concerned about you and the future. Check on your friends and neighbors. Be prepared to share and help. Think we, not me. That will be our saving grace when we look back later.”

COVID-19 Recursos (ESP – PDF)

More resources available on our COVID-19 Resources page

Watch our Lunchtime LEVinar with Washington state Superintendent Chris Reykdal

Register for our March 31 Lunchtime LEVinar with 2020 Washington state Teacher of the Year Amy Campbell

 

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