The school year’s barely over, but we’re already looking toward the fall. School districts have started to announce their plans, at least in some form. Fairfax, Virginia, said it’s all online or two days in person. Rhode Island, where I live, said in-person starts Aug. 31.
For the most part, these plans are tremendously nonspecific. But the return to school is crucial. Michelle Goldberg makes a strong case in the New York Times. I have written before about learning losses and inequality. Remote school will hurt kids, especially poor students and students of color. It will make it harder for economies to open as more and more parents must choose between parenting and work. In-person school enhances learning, but it is also the primary child care most parents rely on. Figuring this out is an emergency.
A successful approach will meet two main goals: First, it will protect the safety of kids and staff (teachers, sure, but also cafeteria workers, janitorial staff, coaches, and everyone else) as well as the broader public. Second, it will, if at all possible, have kids in classrooms, in some form, full time.
The question, then, is: What’s it going to take to do that?
In the big picture, there are four crucial elements: commitment, flexibility, realism, and a focus on staff.