Och Tamale Fall 2020 - University of Redlands

Page 20

A BIG TEST School districts wrestle with getting students back into the classroom By Laurie McLaughlin

18 | www.redlands.edu/OchTamale

Three School of Education professors weigh in on the challenges school districts face and the solutions they’ve created for instruction

D

uring normal times, the most important thing for school districts would be to open schools, says Jose Lalas, a professor of literacy and director of the Center for Educational Justice at the University of Redlands School of Education. “But these are not normal times.” When the school year began for K-12 schools across the nation, news stories reported the various strategies for teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools are teaching all students on campus; others are completely virtual with instruction via computer; and some districts are conducting a hybrid in-person/distance-learning model. While K-12 school administrators, teachers, and staff have spent months planning for all contingencies, the health and safety, financial, and technological hurdles continue to test these educators.

School districts tackle the digital divide Lalas has been a board member of the Corona-Norco Unified School District for 25 years, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are greater than anything the district has faced during his tenure, he says. The district’s schools opened with distance-learning only, which has provided a host of difficulties in the pursuit of equitable access. “The digital divide is very real,” says Lalas. “The families with reliable incomes have computers and are able to help their kids. But thousands of kids don’t have computers or parents who can be at home to support their learning.”