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Providing education during a crisis

School systems all over the country are struggling to find safe and reliable ways to begin school this coming fall. Forced school closures in March denied students and teachers three months of instructional time. The Covid-19 Crisis has forced us to recognize that equal opportunity to education is not a reality in 21st Century America; the Digital Divide leaves half of our kids behind.

The Kump Education Center Board of Directors is focusing on ways to support local schools during this time of crisis. First, KEC board members have been looking into ways to help students gain access to high-speed internet. Second, KEC plans to help Randolph County Schools provide Chromebooks for all students. Third, KEC plans to help teachers hone their online teaching skills.

All over the United States teachers have had to seek ways to reach out to their students, and parents have had to provide online learning and child care for three months. These efforts were hard enough, but in March teachers had been working with the same students for six months to get ready for spring achievement tests. When the tests were cancelled, and the year was cut short, teachers knew who their students were and how well they could meet year-end standards. Teachers could come up with final grades based on the work students had done before the shutdown.

However, in the fall teachers may have to start the school year without meeting their students in person if the Coronavirus is still a serious threat to the health and safety of the community. With the ever-growing numbers of cases at Huttonsville Correction Center, Randolph County is becoming one of the most dangerous places in West Virginia. Even if the public does not come in contact with inmates, 200 employees who work at the prison come into the community each day.

Fall school opening is complicated in the best of times, but it is difficult to imagine how schools should function in the current crises. If remote learning is the only option, teachers may be responsible for teaching students they have never seen. They may also have students who do not have access to high-speed internet and will not be able to participate in online learning.

Schools will have three basic types of options: No. 1. In-person Learning (school as usual) — with real risks of reinfection; No. 2. Remote Online Learning — not available to at least 40% of students; No. 3. Hybrids — with both Remote and In-person Learning.

Various types of scheduling would allow each student be at school part of the week, but only a limited number of students would be physically present at school each day to allow for better social distancing. When at home, students would do assignments that teachers would grade and online enrichment would be available.

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