Scrambling For Backup Plans

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The new school year has only just begun and, despite optimistic Returning Strong pronouncements, the best laid plans of school administrators are starting to fray at the edges.

There’s little real news in reporting that COVID is also coming into classrooms, although thankfully with far fewer cases than in other areas. But maybe we should be surprised in the fact that “districts have been left flat-footed as they figure out how to provide quarantined students an education from home”.

Here in our overly-large school district, leadership pretty much admitted to having no back-up plan in a recent community newsletter.

FCPS is exploring options to provide instructional support to students who are unable to attend school in person due to a COVID-19 infection or possible exposure. We will share more on this shortly.

As in other school systems, I’m betting the main “option” will be sticking a camera in the back of the classroom and and telling the kids who have been forced to quarantine at home to watch the live stream.

Anyway, there’s no good excuse for this kind of last-minute scrambling for what will likely be a pretty crappy solution to a problem they should have seen coming.

But they didn’t. Way back in April, our superintendent was very clear that he would be shutting down all virtual schooling at the beginning of this year, with very few exceptions, and everyone would be back in live classrooms come the fall. Almost all other local districts made the same decision.

Basically they chose to discarded nearly 18 months of learning how online schooling could work (and which ideas should be buried forever).

With the pandemic improving but certainly not going away soon, there was absolutely no reason why districts couldn’t have planned in the spring to provided students and their families with an option to continue doing school from home.

Even worse, however, is that Fairfax could – and should – have created a robust and thriving online high school ten years ago. This community has always had the size, talent, and resources to offer this alternative learning system to the not-insubstantial number of students who might want and benefit from it. Instead of the highly-restricted, largely-neglected experiment that has been floating around the district for at least a decade.

So, district leaders in the overly-large school district (and, to be fair, many other systems) have missed a whole lot of opportunities over the years. Maybe, after many long months of pandemic-fueled wakeup calls, they’re now paying attention and are ready to begin building for the future.

Instead of always “returning strong” to the past.

Signs like the one above started appearing in front of schools early in the summer. Although I’m not sure the opportunity to study math in-person is the attractor someone thought it was.

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