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Make Five-Day School a Priority

Throughout our area, public education leaders seem to be leaning toward what some are calling a hybrid plan for reopening schools. That translates to students attending classes in person for two days a week and relying on “distance learning” for the other three.

It simply will not work in the long term.

Online learning may work reasonably well for some students. Even for them, there is no substitute for classroom presence.

Many — perhaps most — students will not achieve at grade level if most of their learning time is spent online. A significant number will be left far behind, in part because they live in homes with limited or no access to the internet.

Another important factor is involved. It is that many parents rely on schools to care for their children during work-week days. Without that reliable, five-day-a-week service, some will have to pay for daycare. Others simply will not be able to go to work.

Appropriately, most school officials and teachers believe their primary concern is educating children and keeping them safe while they are at school. Whether parents and guardians are free to work during school days is a secondary consideration.

So is whether children get healthy meals during the summertime, however. During the COVID-19 epidemic, many public school systems have embraced that task.

Much has been said and written about educators dealing with “the whole child.” This is a classic case of that: Families in trouble, whether because paychecks are not being brought in or for some other reason, need to be part of the calculation.

It is, in one important respect. With COVID-19 picking up steam in parts of our region, education leaders worry about children contracting the disease at school — and taking the virus home to make parents and grandparents sick. One justification for the hybrid system is that it permits better social distancing and other health measures for students, because fewer of them are in schools at a time.

Still, both for the children’s education and the good of their families, five-day in-school classes need to be a priority.

When can that happen? No one knows. The situation with COVID-19 can change dramatically from day to day, from county to county. But the sooner our children can get to something approaching normal in school, the better.

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