Post COVID-19 in K-12 Education
The National Parents Union brings together an intersectional group of families from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico giving space to parents of color, low-income parents, parents of children with special needs, LGBTQAI parents, single mothers and fathers, grandparents, formerly incarcerated parents and parents in recovery with traditionally represented parent voices to join a vibrant coalition that disrupts the traditional role of families in the policy space. Together with our more than 200 affiliate organizations, we develop a new narrative that is inclusive of families from a wide variety of perspectives.
The National Parents Union supports collaborative decision-making among public schools, private schools, school districts and local and state public health departments about when it is safe to open schools. These decisions will be dependent on several factors, including but not limited to:
- Keeping Children, Families and School Communities Safe and Healthy
- Remote/Emergency Learning
- Personalized Trauma Learning
- Equitable Education Financing
- Supporting Families
The NPU Task Force on Building An Equity Infused Educational Recovery has compiled the following questions to be answered and recommendations that must be addressed prior to children and families re-engaging with our public school systems nationwide. It is our expectation that all schools implement these recommendations for all public school students in all school buildings. We further call for the individual needs of our more vulnerable populations of students and their families to be met. Finally, no schools should be exempt from these recommendations, including those already working on equity improvement plans to address long standing achievement gaps and school turnaround efforts.
Keeping Children, Families, and School Communities Safe and Healthy:
Engage with families in a collaborative, co-creation process regarding the timing and conditions needed to re-open the public school system from a health protection standpoint following the guidelines suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics to include:
- Distribution of masks for every student and adult expected to report to a public school building with replacement at regular intervals.
- Temperature checks for all students, educators, staff and visitors entering into public school buildings.
- New hygiene and sanitation stations installed for regular handwashing and fully functioning bathrooms in a number that can realistically serve the population of students occupying each public school building and specific metrics around cleaning and maintenance.
- Running water with hot water available.
- Functioning bathrooms.
- Hand sanitizer and soap dispensers as well as air dryers or paper towels.
- Bathroom monitors and signage regarding recommended protocols for students, educators and staff.
- Regularly scheduled cleaning, replenishing, and maintenance.
- Upgraded/adapted physical plant solutions to accommodate CDC recommendations for social distancing to include:
- Updated ventilation systems: All public school systems should be equipped with high ventilation capacity similar to healthcare facilities fitted with air exchange systems, and be located in buildings with tall ceilings. Utilize the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the school’s existing HVAC system, and adopt “clean-to-dirty” directional airflows.
- Reduced overall classroom populations with adequate space for social distancing.
- New classroom hygiene maintenance procedures for disinfecting general spaces with strict adherence to CDC guidelines for disinfection and utilizing disinfectants from the EPA’s List N requirements and safe training of custodial/janitorial staff according to the aforementioned guidelines,
- Hallway and common area restrictions and disinfection procedures,
Updated library, science lab, multipurpose and computer room usage and disinfection procedures,
- Updated cafeteria usage procedures and disinfection procedures,
- Updated gymnasium, locker room (including showers), athletic fields, and playground usage procedures and disinfection procedures.
- Updated standards for how athletic teams will practice and play games, have meets, etc.
- Updated protocols for school bus transportation
- Health office accommodations and restrictions for students and teachers developing or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
- Reporting procedures for students, teachers and staff members who have tested positive for or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
- Notification for the families with students who may have been exposed within 3 hours of schools being informed of exposure.
- Clearly established procedures and protocols for 14 day quarantine following a potential exposure with guidelines around pivoting to remote learning, increased substitute teacher pools and support staff.
Remote/Emergency Learning – Now and in the future:
Students across the country may have experienced educational loss due to prolonged school closures during this pandemic. While some schools have implemented distance learning, this is not generally believed to replicate the in-person learning experience. Such schools may also experience a widened divide in academic progress, with certain children able to access distance learning and continue to grow academically, while others might experience difficulty accessing or engaging with virtual instruction.
Until the broad availability of a treatment for COVID-19 exists, there is a risk for future waves of disease impacting communities across the country; it is important that schools plan for the possibility of additional periods of school closures and prepare strategically for distance learning or other educational options. Additional considerations include:
- Develop a comprehensive definition and plan for emergency learning/remote learning that includes training and assistance for parents, students and teachers.
- Standard issuance of technology needed for emergency/remote learning at the beginning of the year, (including needed computer equipment, software, internet access and any other requirements.)
- Prohibit surveillance, tracking or criminalization through the use of technologies and online platforms by school districts directly or third party partners.
- Ensure that all distributed technology meets all hardware and software requirements necessary to handle digital learning platforms (such as google classrooms, zoom, etc), with a commitment to replace any technology that fails to meet these requirements.
- Require districts to provide internet access for all students by creating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to provide free internet access, at a minimum of 50 mbp/s speed for all households at no-cost.
- Ensure that all information is protected when using educational technology and online learning platforms, and that districts are transparent with and accountable to students, parents and communities regarding how information will be gathered and shared.
- Clearly define expectations around daily time spent engaged with academic materials.
- Specific guidelines for families around how engagement time will be determined,
- Specific guidelines for families around how work will be graded and how progress will be assessed when under emergency learning/remote learning guidelines.
- All public schools must update their anti-bullying plans to have an enhanced response to and focus on cyber-bullying.
Personalized Learning Plans for a Trauma Informed Recovery:
During periods of remote learning, there should be clear expectations for how much contact each family has with teachers to communicate feedback on completed assignments, what is expected of students, what materials will be graded and how credit will be earned.
- Develop a new comprehensive assessment system that incorporates a 360 degree view at the start of the school year to determine a child’s strengths and challenges with a new section developed to incorporate parent input to count toward 25% of weighting.
- This assessment will be used to develop an Individualized Education Plan for re-entry and reassignment in the public school option suggested by the district and approved by a parent or guardian to include the schedule of in-person and distance learning combination suggested by the district.
- Develop a clear, comprehensive plan for student assignment based on personalized/individual education plans to incorporate supports for students who may have deficiencies in social and/or academic areas.
- Develop a clear, comprehensive plan for student assignment to weekly scheduling to accommodate reduced classroom populations in consultation with families.
- Additional funding for school guidance counselors, masters-level social workers, school psychologists,
- Work in coordination and collaboration with established online, distance and virtual school operators on best practices regarding the teaching practice, technology usage, social and academic support in development of remote learning planning.
- Traditional district schools and public charter schools work in coordination and collaboration on best practices for extended school day, extended year, teaching practice, technology usage, social and academic support in development of remote learning planning.
Equitable education financing:
School finance must focus on the quality over quantity model in every school, from the excellence of the instruction (validated brain based research driven), services and supports, to rigor of curriculum and classes. State and local funding and spending must display equitable access to resources shown to be fundamental to a quality education. An equity infused educational recovery will require central focus and accountability around the allocation of resources:
- Meet the needs of at-risk students and target funds to the neediest students
- Accountability frameworks put in place to ensure that the funds are being used for their intended purpose
- Responsibility measures that focus on student benefit not system benefit
- External forensic or fiscal audit conducted when deemed necessary
- Evidence based research of intended targeted group prior to requesting and allocating funds
- Cultural congruence with ethnically matched providers must be prioritized.
Continuation of free breakfast and lunch programs (and when possible dinner) available for easy pickup in one bundled package that also includes all critical supplies (masks, hand soap and/or sanitizer) as a part of distribution.(The United States Department of Agriculture has extended significant flexibilities to states in administering school meal programs, including meal service in non-congregate settings, on weekends and with multiple days of meals distributed at once. Schools are encouraged to leverage such flexibilities to best meet the needs of families, as available at the time of school re-opening.)
- Require districts to post as guidance for families an accessible statement and description on data usage and sharing through district agreements and partnerships for online learning in addition to the use of edtech.
- Require districts to partner with local organizations to lead wellness check-ins on students who may need support or may be experiencing harm or abuse at home.
Guarantee multilingual access, including the translation of all materials and resources (including hotlines) developed in response to COVID-19 for Non-EFL families into Spanish and other commonly spoken languages.
Provide the same resources for students and families who are undocumented.
Fulfill their legal obligations to students with disabilities and provide those students access to tailored services as required in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs), including needed compensatory services once schools re-open as directed by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Services.