The holidays are over and it’s finally 2021. Hopefully you’ve had some time to catch up a bit, as well as catch your breath. There has been plenty of good news but there is still so much up in the air and the curveballs keep coming. But you’ve made it this far and the finish line is not as far off as it once seemed. The 2020-2021 academic year has been unlike any before it, but June will be here before you know it. Here are our five tips to make it there with your best foot forward.
#1 Plan for your transition back to the classroom
85% or more [percentage provided through e-mail] of the nation’s schools are still operating in virtual-only or hybrid form. This percentage is expected to start dropping in the next six weeks. Schools and districts can’t underestimate the shift back and imagine it will be like returning in January of any other year. This has been an immensely challenging period for everyone — students, teachers, administrators, as well as other staff members, and there needs to be a concrete plan for how schools will effectively re-integrate staff and students in the buildings. A big part of this is recognizing that many students have fallen behind during this period and may need accommodations in the months to come. On the other hand, for students that have made significant progress, continued rigor needs to be provided.
#2 Keep your remote/distance/hybrid plans ready (and review them)
Some things are working, some things are not. If you haven’t already evaluated the successes and failures of your school or district’s handling of the Covid-19 disruption over the last nine months this is something that should be a priority. The good news is that vaccines are getting closer, with more first responders and those at-risk getting their doses day by day. The bad news is exactly when and how schools will be taken care of is still a bit murky. The goal is for students to be in the classroom as early as possible with many governors have said as much, but schools need to be realistic and plan on the potential for ongoing disruption.
#3 Rebuild the School Community
The Zoom fatigue is real. Believe us, we’re feeling it too. Some sports have been cancelled, while others have been shifted. The same goes for events. Schools and districts should work to provide staff and students with in-person social events when it is safe to do so, but they should definitely make it a priority. Even new events can be fun community building opportunities. If a fall sport was cancelled but not rescheduled perhaps an intramural program can be built up. The same goes for clubs. The school year always runs with the seasons but until real normalcy returns we think it’s more than ok to throw some hardfast scheduling out the window for a greater good. Halloween dance in June? Why not.
#4 Keep up the streamlining
Covid-19 forced a lot of adaptations and streamlining on schools and districts at all once. The transition wasn’t necessarily pretty but a lot of this was coming. Urban and high-risk schools that have received a lot of federal funding traditionally have generally been towards the cutting edge technologically but many schools in more affluent communities were stuck in some older pedagogical and day-to-day business models from yesteryear. Now EdTech tools are household names to staff, students, and parents alike. This shouldn’t go back. Tools that have proven their use should continue to be used and new ways of streamlining the in-person model should continue. Schools can walk away from 2020 more effective than ever.
#5 Build Better Habits
From understanding hygiene to a real sense of what communities mean this pandemic has given schools and districts an unprecedented teachable moment. 2021 could be a great year for recognizing this and building better habits, both personally and within the wider school community. This is something that can allow students and staff members to reflect and look forward all at the same time. Initiatives or actions can come from the top down or from the grassroots but administrators and other key school figures need to get the message out and recognize that this was an enormous event in the lives of many in the school community. No one knows what “normal” is at this point but pretending or forgetting won’t be helpful. Choose to move forward but recognize the trauma.
That’s it for now. Best of luck, all of us at Script wish everyone a safe and successful 2021!