Right about now, you should be making your list of back-to-school supplies and getting ready for the kids to head back into the classroom. Except this is 2020 and nothing is certain, even K-12 school. No matter what the next 10 months hold, you can still do a little prep for an uncertain school year.
How to Prep for an Uncertain School Year
The first thing is to make peace with the uncertainty of education for our kids. Just like the last six or so months, normal is no longer a thing. We’re all navigating this new world together.
Right now, the best thing we can do is maintain flexibility. Luckily, being able to pivot on a dime is something the military community is good at!
Consider Your Options
While many states and districts are looking to reopen in some capacity, not all schools will be returning to traditional 5-day a week instruction.
What is more likely is for schools to offer one or more options to families. Those options may likely include:
- 100% remote learning
- Hybrid learning with some in-person learning and some online learning
- Traditional instruction
Each option your school or district may offer needs to be carefully weighed and considered.
In making your decision, you should consider:
- Your child’s learning style since online learning doesn’t work well for all children
- Additional learning needs, like IEPs, 504 Plans and Gifted Education
- Your work schedule and job requirements
- Child care options outside of K-12 school
Know Where We Stand on COVID-19 & Schooling
Much like this spring, the ultimate decision about school reopening in any capacity may ultimately out of your hands. If your school opens in August or September, future surges of COVID-19 could force the building to close again. Already, schools in LA and San Diego will be shuttered in September amid a sharp rise in cases.
Should similar circumstances occur in other areas of the US, it would not be surprising if schools were closed again in the 2020-2021 school year.
Understand & Teach Safety for School
Part of safely returning to school in the fall means taking additional measures for your child’s personal safety, as well as supporting teachers’ efforts to stay healthy.
Before entering the classroom your child should understand:
- Importance of wearing a mask 100% of the time
- Social distancing as often as possible in school
- Proper hand washing routines
- Need to frequent hand sanitization
- Rationale behind not sharing anything with anyone
Right now, there isn’t a lot of data about COVID-19’s spread among children. However, schools and classrooms are closed environments where students will be in close quarters. Maintaining recommendations about masks and keeping physically distant from others is important to keeping everyone healthy.
To support teachers, parents should:
- Keep your child home at the first sign of illness
- Help teachers keep the classroom sanitized with cleaning products and hand sanitizer
- Be vocal with school leaders to support teachers’ well-being and continued health
Remain Ready to Pivot to At-Home Learning
No matter what you personally do to keep your own family safe, you do not have control over other families. A spike in cases has the potential to close physical school building and return to distance learning.
In order to make this pivot, it’s important that all families prep early – just in case.
Right now, parents should:
- Consider back-up child care options for hybrid learning and possible school closures
- Talk with their employer about work-from-home options
- Think about other options for K-12 education, if possible
At home, consider setting up an at-home learning center for your child if you don’t already have a similar space. You could include a desk, pens/pencils, art supplies, folders and notebooks as well as a place to charge computers or tablets.
If you do not believe that the current online learning program provided by your child’s school is a good fit, now is a great time to explore other options.
- Private tutoring
- Homeschool co-op
- Private online school
- Individual homeschool
- Private in-person school
The most important way to prepare right now, though, is to remain flexible and consider all of your options. We have no way to predict the future of both the pandemic and the state of K-12 education in the US. The situation remains fluid and is evolving daily.
Parents of school-aged children should be prepared to pivot to distance learning or to jump to alternate child care and schooling options as needed.