Districts would benefit from partnering with virtual charters

After months of planning, school reopening plans are being shelved thanks to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Health experts in Idaho are saying there should be no gatherings of more that 10 people at a time. How can our traditional schools meet this standard?

So far school leaders have spent considerable time thinking through issues surrounding social distancing protocols for transportation, meal distribution, and in-person classrooms. It’s unclear how much time they’ve invested in improving online learning. While districts are discussing three options for reopening schools—in-person, hybrid and remote learning—they are not realizing that remote learning is probably the only option left as the pandemic closes the schools.

Our students cannot go through another chaotic version of half-baked “remote” schooling that is done by trial and error. We must provide more support to families juggling work at home and their children’s day-to-day education. Parents will not be satisfied if their school districts maintained the same level of distance learning their children received in the last Spring.

Times are bad, but in Idaho we have hope. Last Spring, one group of students and teachers experienced continuity that most students in Idaho did not because they were enrolled in online charter schools. Full-time online public charter schools maintained an important degree of normalcy and learning. When it came to educating students, these schools didn’t miss a beat.

Every day, students in online charter schools learn from live instructors, as well as carry out independent projects. Many teachers also record their lessons for parents and students to watch as their schedules permit. With the whole family working and studying from home, there was no need to interrupt work to set the kids up for an online meeting.

Online lessons are aligned with state standards. Families can choose to receive a free computer or be compensated for internet access costs. Parents and students receive instruction, assignments, and other important communications from just one user-friendly platform that’s integrated with all the tools needed to successfully learn online. In other words, a great system of online education has already been invented.

With the new school year upon us, it’s time to get serious about remote learning. School districts should partner with experienced online practitioners to support their remote learning efforts. Districts facing strained resources and budget cuts could save money by partnering with proven online providers instead of trying to re-invent online contents and support systems.

Another season of patchwork learning technology hastily produced digitized content, and “paper packet” learning is not acceptable. We should not accept more months of interrupted learning. We can and must improve our remote learning systems and strategies.

Online schools and online curriculum providers have been effective education providers in Idaho for two decades and it only makes sense to partner with them to provide remote lessons to every Idaho student during this crisis.

Tom LeClaire

About Tom LeClaire

Tom LeClaire is the President of Idaho Coalition of Charter School Families.

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