Will Hybrid Schooling Work?

Note – I really try to post positive and funny posts and will avoid political debates.   Sometimes, that is not possible, as it is too close to our lives.

This is it, our children’s education is officially in jeopardy!

We do not have to agree on this topic, but I do want to share my perspective and the risks that I see with this approach.  Sharing and collaborating on such topics will ensure that we set up our kids for success.

I’m fearing that the decisions made by our school district will significantly impact the future of kids – especially high school kids moving into junior and senior years.

I fully understand and support that we want to be safe and protect our kids from health issues.  The last thing we want is to throw our kids into the lion’s den and potentially risking them contracting COVID-19.  However, we also have to be practical.

Wearing masks will significantly reduce the spread.  It was proven over 100 years ago when the Flu pandemic hit the World, and masks were enforced.   People went about their daily lives.  There was no opportunity to work remotely back then, and people simply lost their jobs and income if they stayed home.  They wore masks, washed their hands where/when possible, and continued their routines.

Today we are in a similar, and I intentionally did not say the same, situation.  We have a serious virus circling the world, and it has significantly impacted people’s lives, the economy and unfortunately killed many thousands of people.  It is a tragedy.

Our government’s decisions may or may not have proven to be right, and it depends on who you talk to and what news you watch.  Thre’s no playbook for this pandemic, but one thing is certain, we must restart the economy to avoid a total collapse and something that is worse than the Great Depression.

The shutdown of schools has impacted our kids mentally and academically.  They lost a large part of the school year, and many schools did not put adequate virtual learning in place.

In fact, I’m utterly surprised that many school districts have limited contingency and disaster recovery plans in place.  Granted, they could not have predicted this lengthy impact, but they should have had plans in place for virtual learning.

Unfortunately, many families across the US do not have multiple computers in their homes, and even more, they do not have access to the internet.  This poses a significant challenge to these families, and I doubt they can afford to stay home to do proper homeschooling.

Will the Government provide improved internet access to all communities, which is an initiative that has been worked on for decades?  Or will they give each family financial support to get higher bandwidth to the homes?

Internet bandwidth is a real problem across the US.  Providers like Verizon, Optimum, etc. charge through the roof for little bandwidth to homes.  Each home requires faster internet to support homeworking and homeschooling.  We need fiber to each house!

In Washington DC, 44% of the students have no internet, so how would virtual learning work for them?

We have 7000 kids in our school district.  It is not an easy task to make this work, while still ensuring that we observe social distancing.  Nevertheless, they have already made a decision to introduce a hybrid model, well before the Governor or state has outlined the plans.

It puts unnecessary pressure on hardworking families, assuming that they can take time off or work remotely, to support homeschooling.  It is not as simple as telling the kids “here’s your Chromebook, now go study and work!”.

Kids need supervision and structure, and will only thrive in an environment where they can interact with teachers and students.

Parents are not trained or prepared to do homeschooling.

The schools are not ready to conduct proper homeschooling for K-12.

Our school district fell flat on its face when it closed in March.

The virtual schooling they offered was inadequate.  There was not daily video interaction or classes, despite students having access to Google Classroom and Google Meet.  If they were lucky, they would have a class gathering Friday morning.

The homework they got assigned for the week could be completed within 1-2 hours.  Parents might spend longer discussing and getting with their kids to do their homework.

While many kids are mature, it is not realistic to assume and expect that they will attend every virtual class.  Especially if their parents are not home to monitor if they log on.  Again, this was witnessed during the last 4 months of the school year.  Many kids did not hand in homework, parents received many emails to get the work done, hours spent arguing with kids, and still maintaining our own jobs.

Ok, let’s assume that the hybrid model kicks in, and we see a massive improvement in the daily class activities.  Kids start to learn again and they will have some social interaction with their friends.  That might address the mainstream kids.

What about kids who have an IEP?

Our son needs extra attention and support, which is why a 1-on-1 teacher aid has been assigned to him as part of his IEP.  He is not capable to manage his own schedule without supervisor and support.  The remote learning is not effective and serves more as a visual distraction, with limited cognitive challenges.

Schools should and must be able to support kids with special needs and not remotely.  If they go into a hybrid model, there is plenty of opportunity and room to provide daily learning and support, within the school itself.

My wife and I have spent many hours over the past many months trying to support our kids, and are lucky that we have somewhat flexible employers.  However, our offices are starting to open up again, and I can no longer work remotely 100%.

We have three kids in various grades and schools, within the same district, and thankfully the school has given out Chromebooks to most students at this stage.

I’m very skeptical about the hybrid model.  I fear this is another school year that will be written off and I do not see how students will get adequate learnings.

How will this affect kids’ opportunities to get top grades and seek higher learning at top colleges?  

We are forced into this situation because of various political debates and arguments.  The practical and scientific reviews have been replaced by wannabe social media warriors and media in general.  The fearmongering has no limit, and it is very hard to filter out the nonsense.

Decisions made by school districts are based on feelings, and might not consider the mental, social and educational needs of our children.

Again, we do not have to agree, but it is a healthy debate without namecalling and without being banned/blocked from social media.

Our son will digress, and we will now have to fight the school district to get additional services to cover these gaps, and they have already attempted to call to ignore IEPs due to these uncertain times.  This is not acceptable.  But, we could also be assuming the worst, and the school might prove to be preparing extra services already.

To be fair, our school and his team have been absolutely brilliant with our son.  They have supported his needs and always look out for him.

The upcoming school year will be a huge test for families and children.  We have not experienced this kind of pandemic in a century.

I expect that our elected officials (both sides) do what they are meant to do, which is to serve the people and not take away liberties and replace these with socialist ideals that will fully undermine the great country we live in.

I’m confident we have the technologies to support virtual learning, but we do not have the environment and family support to switch to the new model overnight.  Such a change will take much more planning and considerations, to ensure its success.

Our kids are tech-savvy, but they get easily distracted.  Working or learning remotely requires discipline and we need to ensure our kids get the necessary guidance to be successful in a virtual environment.  Throwing Chromebooks, Google Classroom, and other gadgets at them (and the families) will not make this successful.

Just look at the corporate world.  Working remote has been developing over the last 5 years, and yet many companies refuse to allow remote working.  It is hard to track progress, and managers need to manage teams differently.

The same goes for the classroom and the teachers.  Unless the teachers are educated and run the virtual classes differently, they are going to lose too many kids.

It is time that school districts involve technical leaders to deliver and support this new way of learning.

Awareness, training, and proper tools are essential to our success, and the success of our kids, not to mention ensuring that they can go on to higher education.

What are your thoughts on hybrid schooling?

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