With Gov. Ned Lamont extending the closing of public schools until at least April 20, Connecticut students and parents are starting to consider the possibility that the school year has already ended.
“We might have had our last day of school and not even known about it,” as Grace Waldron, a senior at Wallingford’s Sheehan High School, recently put it to a Record-Journal reporter.
While that remains to be seen — because there’s no telling how this coronavirus crisis will develop — what we can foresee is that today’s students will look back on 2020 as the year when the schools were forced to shut down and “distance learning” at home became the new normal.
Given the difficulty of switching educational gears, with little warning, from in-class instruction to distance learning, mainly via computer, our state and local education authorities are to be commended for their work thus far.
From state Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona, to our local school superintendents and their staffs, mountains have been moved to get kids set up for home learning, with no time to spare.
One big impediment, especially for school systems such as Meriden’s that have a high level of low-income students, is that some kids didn’t have computers or internet access at home.
But the Meriden schools have been distributing Chromebooks and wifi access hardware to families that need it. And Lamont announced that the Partnership for Connecticut, a public-private education partnership with Dalio Philanthropies, plans to make 60,000 laptop computers available to high school students.
Wallingford Board of Education member Tammy Raccio was pleased that special-needs students were included in that town’s planning. “… I've seen plans — or I should say lack of plans — in other districts,” along with the mindset that we can catch up with special ed later.
Still, regrettably, it may be impossible to deliver the “extensive individual support” that some students require under the current school shutdown, Cheshire School Superintendent Jeff Solan said.
In a year filled with question marks, we can only hope that school will resume around April 20, that any educational deficits suffered by students can be ameliorated, and that high school seniors will be able to enjoy something like the “full senior experience” that Cheshire High School senior Emma Cody told a reporter she feared she will miss.
The school systems are doing their level best to cope with an unprecedented societal crisis, and we think they deserve a great deal of credit.