Parents and teachers are facing the most anxiety-producing return to school most have ever experienced as we grapple with how to educate our children in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
All sorts of vexing questions spring to mind, and it’s difficult to know what the best answers are.
Will it be safe for our kids to return to the classroom?
Or would it be better to have them attend classes online?
If the kids aren’t in school and I have to work, how will parents manage child care or home schooling?
If kids go to school, will they bring home an infection, exposing other family members, including those who have compromised immune systems?
These are the kinds of questions that keep lots of people — parents, teachers, school board members, administrators and the health experts who advise them — awake at night.
Tough questions. Tough answers. It’s important to get this right.
Here in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area, the public school systems in Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead all are taking a hybrid approach that mixes in-class instruction with distance learning.
Each school district’s plan has its own unique flavor, appropriate to its own circumstances.
That’s a smart approach. It strikes a balance, allowing some in-person learning, along with all of the social and other benefits that entails, but reduces risks but moving some learning out of the classroom and online.
- Moorhead public schools reopen under hybrid learning model
- Bismarck School District backpedals on decision to hold in-person classes 5 days a week
- West Fargo School Board approves district's hybrid 'Return to Learn' plan
- Burgum announces new mask campaign as active COVID-19 cases hit all-time high in North Dakota
- Fargo Public Schools will start with mix of virtual, in-person education
Fargo will have a virtual academy, giving all students the option of taking all of their instruction online.
It’s good to provide choices when family situations vary so widely. We’re impressed, though, with the commitment Beth Slette, the West Fargo school superintendent, has made getting kids into school as much as possible a priority. She’s been out front, not shying away from controversy.
“I cannot reiterate enough: our goal is to get our children back in school full time as quickly as possible and keep our staff and community safe in the meantime,” she said.
Local schools are taking a pragmatic approach. Their plans include input from health providers and community partners. The plan in West Fargo, which is expecting more than 11,000 students this fall, has the backing of teachers.
Moorhead’s plan will be guided by a panel of school and health officials that will meet weekly to monitor pandemic conditions and decide how schools should operate. Masks will be required in Moorhead and Fargo and when students are in hallways moving between classes in West Fargo.
Ultimately, conditions will dictate how much the schools will be able to safely resume in-class instruction. If the virus is spreading rapidly enough, they will be forced to rely more on virtual instruction.
Working parents whose children can’t be in school will have difficult challenges of their own. Which parent will be able to stay at home, juggling work and helping the kids with their schooling?
The pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis and poses huge challenges on many fronts. Getting our kids safely back to school will require everybody — parents, teachers, administrators and even employers — to work together to solve this.
We all have a stake in making this work.