By Nicolas Quiroga
As of April 2020, the global amount of Coronavirus cases topped two million and school buildings across the globe shut down, causing millions of children to be left with only partial, or in some extreme cases, without any education. Many schools have adapted to this harsh climate by turning to online education in order to continue teaching. With technology, students are able to participate in virtual ‘classes’ where students can ask questions and continue their education at home in quarantine.
As more and more school districts have shut down across the United States, school staff and administration have been forced to search for new ways to reach out to students. Websites like Zoom and Google Classroom have become household names as they have had massive surges in users.
“[A]ddressing issues raised by the surge of new users, including 90,000 schools in 20 countries [has been the challenge]. The company’s customer service team has been overwhelmed by requests for support…” reported a recent article in EducationWeek.org, referencing the flood of requests Zoom has encountered from new users.
In these new digital formats, students are encouraged to undertake tasks and lessons at their own pace and craft their own at-home work schedule to complete assignments by the due dates. Fair Lawn High School, for example, has decided to let departments set a certain number of tasks due at the end of each week, leaving the students to decide when to complete them on the assigned days.
Like many other districts, Fair Lawn has also implemented a “Pass/Fail” grading system for Marking Periods 3 and 4 to provide greater equity for students and their families in these difficult times. This plan also comes with “Flex Fridays,” in which students have the chance to make up late work on Fridays instead of being assigned anything new. In an April 9th letter posted on the Fair Lawn School District’s website, Superintendent Nicholas Norcia referenced a recent survey of the community, overwhelmingly in favor of the switch to a “Pass/Fail” and “Flex Friday” system.
“Of those who responded, 88 percent favored a Pass/Fail grading model and 94 percent supported Flex Fridays,” Norcia said.
Although online education has proven to be successful and useful during the quarantine in many areas around the country, Fair Lawn among them, many students and parents are left in trouble as not everyone has the technology needed for these online classes, particularly those in impoverished areas with many residents of low socio-economic status. During the quarantine, kids who may have had to go to the library or the computer lab in order to use technology are no longer able to use these resources.
“More than 21 million Americans do not have access to high-speed Internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s latest data. The numbers have improved in recent years, though the gaps remain pervasive…” said a recent article published in The Washington Post.
In addition, many jobs have been impacted by the quarantine as social distancing has caused many to remain home and away from other people. As a result, money is tighter in many families as people are forced to be frugal with how they spend.
“[A]nother 4.4 million people filed new jobless claims last week to push the total above 26 million since the coronavirus pandemic laid siege to the U.S. economy a month and a half ago,” journalist Jeffry Bartash reported in a recent report by MarketWatch.com.
Additionally, many children are still struggling to learn, as parents have taken on the role of teacher for younger students. These parents must now spend most of their time helping younger kids and making sure that they continue to do their work. Zacha Del Valle, a local mother in Fair Lawn, had this to say when asked about teaching younger students at home.
“[I]t's hard, you know. Being a teacher has given me some help, but watching my kids and making sure that they are still learning has been difficult. It’s pretty hard to balance my new responsibilities as I have to constantly watch all three kids, while also making sure to keep them and the house clean on top of the keeping track of what is happening to the virus…” Del Valle said.
Over a month has passed since the start of the quarantine and hopes of returning to school before the end of the 2019-2020 school year are dwindling as the governor has recently extended the stay at home order to May 15th. As the Covid-19 outbreak has continued to spread around the world, online education follows it as a temporary band-aid for the current crisis.