There is no one-size-fits-all solution
The beginning of the 2020-21 school year has become a major topic of conversation in the last few weeks. The last few months haven’t been easy for many, including our youth and their teachers, as the pandemic forced school districts across the country to close down their buildings and finding new methods of providing education.
Locally, we have seen some turn to online classes, while others have used “packs” of lessons put together for each student. For the most part, it seemed to work…at least for the short term.
President Donald Trump and many in his administration have said they want schools to be back in session this fall. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice has already pushed back to start date to Sept. 8 as cases of the COVID virus have begun to rise in recent weeks.
The goal of anything during this uncertain time is whether it can be done safely. Various community festivals, concerts and more have been canceled because organizers didn’t feel a safe environment could be provided under current health guidelines.
Gov. Justice has implemented an executive order — with pretty much zero enforcement capabilities at this time — encouraging the wearing of masks while inside a public building, especially when social distancing is not possible. That’s going to be difficult to accomplish in a school setting.
Here is the thing to keep in mind.
Education has never been a “one size fits all” situation. Even if you are teaching the same subject matter, methods often must be altered in order to reach every student. Not everyone learns the same way or at the same speed.
The same can be said for reopening schools when you go from district to district, or county to county. The same approach is not going to work for everyone.
You may have one county, for example, that has the capabilities to handle online classes throughout the school year if the need arises. In another county, however, there may be several communities which are unable to receive adequate internet service. That’s something we face even here in the Ohio Valley, so just imagine the challenges faced by residents in more rural areas of the Mountain State.
How do you social distance when it comes to classes? Not all schools have available space to spread students out. How do you handle transportation to and from school? There are only so many buses available, and a limited amount of time to get kids to their destination. Unless you shorten the school day or extend the time allowed for bus routes, you are still likely to have buses filled to capacity.
How will lunch time and recess be handled? What about physical education class? Of course, fall sports has been a major topic of conversation in this issue, with an uncertainty of whether a season can be held for any team.
We are still in an uncertain situation, and blanket policies will not work. More focus may be needed in one area than another. That is the case with businesses, community events and our schools. We all want this situation to end, and it will eventually, but we also must remain vigilant in how everything is being handled.
The point is, all of the huffing and puffing being done isn’t going to help in finding a solution. The problem will have to be solved at the local level, with school districts and communities working together to overcome their challenges.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)