Public Schools Reopening in the USA: What will your family do amidst uncertainty?
It’s nearing the end of August 2021, and some public school reopenings are happening haphazardly.
What will the options be for in-person learning? Remote learning? Will it be a hybrid approach? What safety protocols will be in place at the schools, and how effective will they be at preventing students from being exposed to COVID?
Some initial reports are troubling with regard to the safety record of public schools. On August 25, 2021, it was reported that the Los Angeles School District had over 3,000 student COVID cases after one week of school reopening.
The distance learning programs being offered by public schools have generally been of low quality. The resumption of in-person schooling is showing a questionable safety record only one week in.
A growing number of families are fed up and looking for alternatives, some of them for the first time. Children, especially younger children, were not designed to sit in front of a small laptop screen for several hours a day following a traditional school format. Nor were they designed to sit in poorly ventilated, inadequately sterilized rooms with masks on for hours.
Kids need dynamic interaction and personalized attention, not sitting in a room, physical or virtual, with 40 other kids and a teacher teaching out of a rote workbook.
After 18 months in lockdown, some public school kids have fallen behind on their usual rate of learning, as well as suffering the effects of isolation and lack of social and mental stimulation. Kids returning to school have to deal with the new stressors of possible COVID exposure and catching up with a difficult curriculum after 18 months of learning loss.
Problems with public school, summed up, in 2021
- Students have suffered learning loss and social-emotional stress over 18 months of lockdown. Even as public schools resume in-person instruction, many schools are not doing enough to fix the learning loss or care for students’ needs.
- Distance learning has a low-quality experience for many students. Rather than designing and building an online learning experience from the ground up, most public schools have attempted to shoehorn the legacy brick-and-mortar classroom format into a Zoom room on a Chromebook.
- Is it a good idea to go back to in-person learning? It isn’t certain that the public school experience will be safe or enriching. Early reports from the first week of back-to-school, show many students are frazzled and COVID cases in school districts are already rising.
The Solution to Public School: On-Demand Online Education
Given the above problems, what solutions exist for families today? Private schools have been around for a while, and sometimes provided a better educational experience than public schools.
During the pandemic, a number of private schools were re-opening earlier than public schools, as well as providing higher-quality programs for remote learning. Many families made the jump to private schools where cost was not an issue for them, and private schools saw their enrollment numbers increase significantly from the pandemic.
But for many American parents, private schools are expensive and require a large commitment of both money and time. A student enrolling in a private school would expect to be there for a year at least, and ideally several years until they graduate. This represents a large commitment for many families, and they can be quite understandably reluctant to take the plunge.
At the same time, many families have become financially strained due to layoffs and economic slowdowns caused by the pandemic, keeping private schools out of financial reach.
The good news is, a new alternative is emerging that fills in the gap between full-time private school and public school: live and on-demand online education through platforms like Galileo. Families aren’t bound for long lengths of time or large tuition payments. Students can enroll in as few or as many courses and programs as they like, rather than following a fixed, prescriptive regimen.
Public school families might be concerned about learning loss from the inadequacies of their school’s distance learning programs. Galileo remedies this through high-quality courses that were designed from the ground up to be delivered online, rather than public school classrooms shoehorning themselves into an online format.
Galileo courses have world-class instructors and excellent instructor-to-student ratios, so kids can get the personalized attention they need and thrive in a time of global, social isolation.
The Impact of Halted Education on College Admissions
College admissions departments will be grappling for years to come on how to understand and interpret the educational history of applicants from K-12 public schools. They won’t know how to evaluate the 1-2 “missing years” of the pandemic.
Some public school districts have done better than others at adapting to the pandemic, so the degree of learning loss varies by school. But all have suffered ill effects.
This pandemic will be discussed for decades. It is likely that college admissions essays will eventually ask the question, “what did you do during the pandemic and how did you respond to this event?” University admissions readers will be looking at what a student did during the years 2020, 2021, and maybe 2022.
Many public school students will have to answer that they stayed at home and did remote learning while all their usual extracurricular activities were shut down. It may be true, but it makes for a dull college application.
Students and families who are more enterprising right now, are adapting to the lockdown to expand their learning and exploration rather than allowing it to be constrained by “following the program” at their kid’s public school. Rather, they go out on their own to acquire learning experiences suited to their interests and needs.
For example, a kid whose usual school robotics program was suspended because of the pandemic, can join Galileo’s robotics bootcamp. It’s cohesive with other Galileo programs and connects kids with enthusiastic friends and qualified instructors in a safe environment.
This also demonstrates to colleges that the student has initiative. Unlike many public school students who are told “robotics club is suspended, you can’t do anything”, Galileo students say, “yes we can”, and find new ways of doing what they love.
It shows a drive to keep learning and adapting in spite of global challenges. And that sort of character is both what colleges are looking for, and what’s needed in our new generation of young global leaders.
During his time, the great scientist Issac Newton also experienced an epidemic, which forced the university he taught at to shut down. While at home in quarantine, Newton made the most of his time. Without the usual impositions of his life, he was able to write and develop his landmark theory of calculus.
The next frontier of a child’s education can begin at home.