Last week leaders of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education asked the governor that his executive order closing public schools be extended to the end of the school year. While that is a difficult decision to make when dealing with more than 700,000 students and their families, CABL agrees it is probably the right decision given the imperative of putting the health and safety of our citizens first and foremost. But that does not mean that the education of our children should stop.
These are truly extraordinary times, and it is no understatement to say that in just a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 virus has upended virtually everything we know of normal in this country. No one and no part of our society has been untouched, but at CABL we continually come back to the impact it’s having on our children and their education.
Much of the focus of attention broadly has been on our most vulnerable citizens because they are the ones most susceptible to the worst effects of this virus. Sadly, we have hundreds of thousands of very vulnerable students in our public schools who are not so much at greater risk of infection from the corona virus, but at risk of a disruption in their education that could have a significant impact on their futures.
Because of poverty and other social factors, many of them struggle on a daily basis to succeed in school. As a result of the COVID-19 virus, our kids will probably be losing the equivalent of nine weeks of in-person instruction at the end of the school year before entering the summer break where we know there is already a learning loss that occurs.
We cannot allow these children to fall further behind. We know that many districts are doing a great job through distance learning and other innovative practices to continue instruction, but we know other districts are struggling.
We worry that closing schools for the remainder of the school year could signal to some that it is okay to take their foot off the accelerator or worse decide that further instruction can wait until next year. The failure to continue current instructional efforts, or boost them in districts that are already experiencing challenges, could have lifelong consequences for the many thousands of Louisiana students who most need the opportunity for a good education.
With that in mind, CABL has encouraged the governor to include some key points in any future executive order extending school closures:
- A strong directive requiring districts to continue to provide instructional opportunities for all students through the end of the school year.
- A request to BESE and the Department of Education to enhance support for districts that struggle with a lack of online capabilities or that face other obstacles.
- A strong encouragement that all districts consider ways of providing additional instruction such as sessions during the summer months, before school resumes in the fall, or through extended days during the next school year.
These are extraordinary times and they require herculean efforts that go far beyond what would normally be expected. We know thousands of educators across the state are doing things they never thought they would because of this crisis. We applaud and appreciate their work.
As difficult as it might be, we need to ensure that their persistence and innovation continues at least through the end of the school year, if not longer. We have many thousands of children in Louisiana who through no fault of their own face challenges and struggles in the classroom. The current crisis places these kids at even greater risk. It is our prayer that we as a state survive this crisis and in doing so, find the way to ensure that the educational success of our children is not diminished by this disease.