July 20, 2020
If you are a parent, or if you've spoken to one recently, chances are the topic of reopening schools has come up. As the reopening process is being hotly debated from the federal government down to localities, no one has a clear answer about what the upcoming school year should look like.
The confusion, according to former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, has to do with every school district having such a unique set of circumstances.
"Every single situation is so different," said Spellings. "The individual health of the students, the workforce, our teachers and educators, the health capacity, the disease prevalence, on and on and on."
To make the issue even more chaotic, there isn't one centralized place to look for answers.
"People are not looking to Washington for guidance, they're looking to their state officials and their local officials," she continued.
As the beginning of the school year approaches — just three weeks away in some Southern states — school districts need to lay out clear plans.
"Parents need clarity. They need options. They understand the complexity of the issues before them and we've got to get this straightened out very soon so that families can plan, people can work, and educators can stay healthy," said Spellings.
If reopening schools for in-person learning can't be an option, the good news is that remote learning has gotten some much-needed TLC over the course of the summer, according to Spellings. She says there's been increased state leadership on the topic, and she's seen additional investment from the CARES Act going to provide more advanced broadband internet and devices for students to be set up for success in the fall.
None of the options in front of schools are ideal, but this is the best the country can do while the virus is still with us, said Spellings.
"Like anything new, it'll take some adjusting, but one thing we know about human beings is that people can adjust," she elaborated. "Our kids will comply and adapt as well."