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What’s Next After COVID?

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Online Education

What’s Next After COVID?

It’s not hyperbole to say that the entire nation and the world is trying to figure out what comes next. COVID, at least the first wave, seems to have passed, but local, state, and the federal governments are adjusting to a post-vaccination and -mask world. There seem to be more questions than answers regarding what happened. 

Was the virus created in a Wuhan lab? Was wearing masks necessary? Was the medical risk over- or understated? How politically motivated were decisions being made by the Right and Left? I’ll leave answering those questions to the conspiracy theorists and historians; we might not know the true answers for decades.

What about schools? It took a while for districts to find their footing and cope with trying to educate students in the midst of the COVID restrictions, economic pressure, family panic and outrage, student advocates, and teachers’ unions, but they adjusted.

Different Approaches For A Complex Situation

From what I heard from colleagues and my MTEL students, schools instituted many different models to make the best of an incredibly difficult situation. Massachusetts districts were required to offer a remote model for students; students attended classes via Zoom, Google Hangout, or similar platforms. 

I don’t know the exact statistics, but in my school of approximately 850 students, about 300 started the 2020-21 school year attending remotely. Districts adopted some version of a “hybrid model.” To maintain social distancing protocols, only half of those students attending school in person via a hybrid model could attend at one time.

One model had students attending alternate weeks in school and one week remotely. Another, more prevalent system had some students in school on certain days of the week while another group learned remotely, and the groups alternated days.

For example, in my district cohort-A students came to school on Mondays and Tuesdays while cohort-B students attended in person on Thursdays and Fridays. Students went home at 11:30 for lunch, and their last class was attended remotely by all students. Wednesdays were remote for all for the first few months of the year.

Some districts had separate “remote learning academies” where remote students were taught by remote teachers. Hybrid students were taught by different teachers in person and via Zoom.  Other districts had remote and hybrid students in the same class; remote students Zoom’d with the hybrid students who were on their remote days while the in-person hybrid students sat in front of the teacher.

These “zoomies” and “roomies” (coined at Lowell High School this spring as they transitioned from a fully remote to a hybrid model) classrooms were the most challenging for teachers to manage. Engaging these two disparate groups of students simultaneously was not an easy task. Students and teachers suffered.

A Return To In-Person Classes

As the year progressed, special education students (“cohort-C”) who were unable to access their education remotely were invited back to school at various intervals, first for five half days then eventually full time.  When vaccines were released, COVID hysteria lessened, and COVID restrictions were eased. By the spring, fewer students were attending school remotely, and the hybrid models were abandoned; all students attended school in person every day for a full day.  My school even went back to serving lunch.   

DESE recently said that school will be in person, full-time, and health and safety requirements will be lifted in the fall of 2021. I’ve also seen that young students—who are yet unable to be vaccinated—will be required to wear masks. Of course, an outbreak of a virulent COVID strain could mean a return of all the recently lifted restrictions.

Lingering Questions In A Post-COVID World

Questions for schools remain. A few that come to my mind are wide-ranging.

What will immunocompromised students do if their doctors still want them home?  Will districts have to provide for these students?

In my experience, a majority of students struggled with remote learning, especially those with disabilities. However, a small segment of students excelled. Some performed much better with the virtual structures of Zoom and Google Classroom and without the social pressures of the actual classroom. Will these students be forced to return to school?

How has the decrease in learning time impacted students? What will be the long-term effects of students in the lower grades in math, for example? Will they be able to recover and catch up to grade-level expectations? Will the issue of learned helplessness impact a larger proportion of students?  Become worse for those already impacted?

Which technological advances of the last year (remote access, online classroom tools, executive functioning software, etc.) will become the new normal?  Will how we deliver curricula be changed for better (or worse) because of such innovations?

What questions come to your minds as you ponder the ramifications of what you, your students, and your school endured over the last year of pandemic? Please let me know at chuck@joinETI.com

And if you must pass your MTELs because your emergency license is expiring, go to joinETI.com and register for classes this fall before your waiver expires and several MTELs change.

ETI, established in 1999, has been guaranteeing MTEL success since last century.

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