More Education Options, Please
There was an interesting story from KMOX this week profiling a family who chose a parochial school this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When their local public school said that their son would be working on virtual schooling from home all day while they were at work, the family instead decided to send him to a private school that is offering in-person instruction.
Families need options, now more than ever.
It seems perpetually lost in the debate that different people are experiencing the pandemic differently. There are families who need to take serious precautions. They or their child might have an underlying health issue that would make contracting the coronavirus dangerous. They may have frequent contact with elderly friends or family who might be at risk of complications should they catch COVID-19. Allowing them to use virtual education for the duration of the pandemic is the appropriate and fair thing to do.
Other families, however, are making a different calculation. They are looking at research that, at least to this point, shows little risk to children, particularly young children, and are weighing this very small risk against the serious risk of learning loss from a semester or year of low-quality online instruction. The parents might be young and healthy, with little contact with vulnerable people, and believe that they can use in person education safely and appropriately.
I wouldn’t tell either of these families that their decision is wrong, because each has to weigh the risks and benefits that apply to their particular circumstances. But we must always remember to look at both sides of the ledger: the coronavirus absolutely poses risks, but so does a year of lost schooling.
Our education system needs to support families, whatever decision they make. This means having both online and in-person options available to them. We need to support schools that want to open for in-person instruction and make sure that they have the capability to operate safely. If traditional public schools are choosing to delay opening or are opening solely as online schools, we need to support families that want to do something else.