CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The coronavirus pandemic is forcing a paradigm shift for public education with schools closed and students learning from home. The University of Virginia’s Miller Center put together a virtual panel of experts Tuesday, May 12, to discuss the lasting effects of the pandemic on classrooms.
“Parents, students, teachers have been heroic, but I think at a lot of levels it’s not going great. We’re struggling,” UVA Curry School of Education Dean Robert Pianta said.
The panelists believe this crisis highlights the critical role public schools play in their communities: from feeding children, to providing mental health care.
“I think we’re going to need to see an increase in that to ensure our kids are doing OK,” UVA law professor Kimberly Robinson said.
Pianta says early studies show students in kindergarten through eighth grade are losing 30% of their gains in reading, and 70% of gains in math.
“The plans have to be how do you intensify the opportunities in an appropriate way for the kids who have been made more vulnerable by this?” Pianta said.
Existing achievement gaps are widening since some students do not have access to the internet or support systems at home. Students with special needs are also at-risk of falling behind.
“We’re not only going to have to not only continue to educate students who can continue in their work now, but offer supplemental learning opportunities for those who were not able to keep up and need to catch up,” Robinson said.
The panelists say colleges and universities will have to examine the value they’re providing students for tuition in a virtual campus.
“How do we create a rich classroom in a new regime where students are saying, ‘Is it worth it?’This isn’t the way it was when I went into a classroom every day. How can you make this worth it for me?'” Melody Barnes with the UVA Democracy Initiative said.
These education experts hope communities invest in schools and teachers in the face of budget shortfalls.
“We balanced state budgets on the backs of educators the last time around. If we do that this time around, we won’t have teachers who are working two jobs. We’ll have no teachers,” Pianta said.
“We’re trying to save jobs right now, but if we don’t invest in our young people we won’t have educated youth to be in those jobs later,” Robinson said.
The panelists say students should expect a blend of in-person and virtual classes in the fall, as well as staggered schedules. They also say more schools may look at longer days, longer school years, and even year-round school.
The full panel discussion is available to watch at: https://youtu.be/E5unwQHEMCs.