With Massachusetts schools closed for the remainder of the school year, educators and communities continue to grapple with the challenges of supporting students from a distance. And while meeting the needs of students right now is critically important, it is just the first of many steps schools and communities must take to address the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When school doors reopen, things will be different. Many students will bring with them the effects of trauma—in addition to a disrupted daily routine and a long period of isolation from classmates, students may have experienced a parent’s joblessness, the loss of a loved one, housing instability, or domestic or community violence. The time away from in-person learning means most students will have fallen behind academically, and the varying degrees of learning students were able to engage in from home will have exacerbated the deep inequities that already plague our system. Meanwhile, the economic impact of the crisis may cause some older students to drop out of high school or college due to increasing pressure to contribute to family incomes.
Schools and community partners can help to address these challenges and provide the support students will desperately need, but we must start planning now.
That’s why the Rennie Center will be rolling out its Back-to-School Blueprint, an interactive series of research-based, online modules to help schools get ready to reopen. The Blueprint aims to help schools implement practices that will not only address the pressing issues facing our students right now, but also become building blocks for a more supportive and high-performing system in general.
Each module will include a series of priority practices for educators to keep in mind as they plan for the future along with a list of action steps to implement the practice. They will also include research, videos, and other key resources educators can use. Our Back-to-School Blueprint will focus on topics ranging from addressing trauma and anxiety, to measuring students' progress and learning needs, to reengaging students at risk of dropping out and developing post-secondary pathways for all students.
While difficult, we believe this time of uncertainty offers an opportunity for positive change in our schools. Let's start planning now so that when the storm subsides, the sun will rise on a brighter future for all students.
We are still finalizing our focus areas and we want to hear from you! What challenges will schools face as they prepare to reopen? Where could educators use additional guidance? Please contact us with your ideas.