The decision to close all schools — public and private — through the end of April was a drastic measure, yet it was a necessary one in the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
That is becoming clearer by the day as the number of cases increases and the death toll climbs. Yes, these numbers are a tiny percent of the U.S. population now, but if the trend is allowed to continue the ramifications will be huge. Our health system is not prepared to deal with a crush of millions of COVID-19 patients.
Sacrifices are having to be made by all Americans in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. It is hoped this situation is temporary.
But the loss of six weeks of school is something that can’t be recovered. Each school year is critical as a building block toward a well-rounded education, ending with high school graduation.
What happens at schools goes beyond the classwork, it’s about social skills and much more. It’s also a place where student participate in music, drama and sports. Many of those experiences will be lost for the school year.
Still, school officials in both states are focused on providing as much education as possible during the next six weeks. U-B education reporter Sheila Hagar detailed the efforts locally in a recent article.
The Walla Walla School District, for example, has been working on a plan so students could continue to learn when school buildings are closed.
“Our Walla Walla faculty and staff did not feel comfortable sitting around and waiting, leaving vulnerable kids and families in limbo,” said Walla Walla Superintendent Wade Smith. “We rolled up our sleeves, worked around the clock, and came together with a solution that provides educational access while maintaining the critical connection between students, parents, and teachers.”
This week the district launched distance learning programs for preschool through high school students. Preschool and elementary school children will have weekly learning materials created by their homeroom teacher and specialists in packets that will be picked up.
Middle- and high-school students will get daily instructions from teachers via online, in a Google Classroom platform. The district will provide Chromebooks and a Verizon hotspots for those who lack internet access.
It’s going to be a lot of work for teachers and students. Adding to that will be myriad challenges and stresses stemming from the simple fact that students are not all in one place and cannot easily be monitored.
Students are probably not going to get as much out of school under normal circumstances, but let’s give credit to educators — in Walla Walla and throughout the Valley — for understanding the need to be adaptable and taking the initiative to make the best of this awful situation.
“There will be frustration, there will be glitches ... But when you look back and say ‘Was it worth the effort?’ It absolutely is,” Smith said.
He’s right. And that positive attitude, which seems to prevail in every school, public or private, is why we are confident the students and families in this Valley will be well served.