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Holding Students Accountable

If COVID-19 persists, even intensifies, it may be early spring by the time many Americans feel safe sending their children to school. For millions, that would mean a full year of classes missed.

So when do public schools resume holding students and parents accountable?

As schools reopened, many students have gone back to class. Blame the virus for the fact that has been a hit-and-miss scenario. Most schools in our area are open four days a week, with Wednesday off so buildings and furnishings can be sanitized. And, as COVID pops up among a few students and school staffers, there have been temporary re-closings.

At least children attending when schools are open have the benefit of regular, face-to-face contact with teachers. As I’ve written before, that is an important enforcement mechanism to ensure the students are doing their homework, are paying attention, and are learning.

But many — thousands in our area alone — have not gone back to school. Their parents and guardians worry that could expose them to COVID-19. These children are taught “remotely.” That means online for nearly all of them.

A significant number of kids live in households without internet access, though. They start with a learning handicap.

Most have access, however. But how much are they learning?

Last spring, a survey of high school students found about 40% of them saying they weren’t learning much from online teaching.

No doubt the situation has improved, as both teachers and students settled in to the online classroom.

Still, there’s the matter of ensuring at-home students are online when they’re supposed to be and are doing all the work they’re assigned.

Many aren’t. And many aren’t being required by parents to do so. Lack of support by some parents is among the greatest challenges teachers face, even when all the kids are in class.

Thus far, teachers seem to have been relatively lenient. That’s appropriate for several reasons.

At what point do they crack down? Do they wait until January to start sending truant officers to homes where children aren’t turning in online assignments? If they find such situations, what can they do about them?

It’s a puzzle — one not addressed by state laws in most, if not all, places. Mandatory attendance statutes weren’t written with online learning in mind.

If we just wait COVID out, until a vaccine is widely available, millions of children will be months behind in their educations. At some point, then, school systems will have to come up with a way to ensure they get their noses back into their (note)books.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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