GUEST COLUMN: Schools should have been better prepared for the pandemic

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Randy Greene

The pandemic caught us all by surprise. Many persons, industries and public entities were not ready, but they should have been. Critical Industries, like banks and hospitals, are required to have a pandemic plan in place. It seems like schools should have been better prepared, but they were not.

That aside, it is now been eight weeks since teachers and students were ordered out of their classrooms. Just this week, my children received assignments for the week that took them approximately two hours to complete. In the process of their two hours of work, they learned nothing new. In fact, in a “coffee chat” on May 20, Superintendent Erin MacGregor revealed the results of a survey in which teachers estimated they were providing less than three hours of school a week for elementary students to complete.

Howell Public Schools are failing our students. Students are going to advance to the next grade having missed critical instruction for more than 25 percent of the school year. In normal times, students who miss too much school aren’t able to advance to the next grade. Because every day of education is deemed so critical, schools must make up days if they closed too many times for snow emergencies. Yet now schools are poised to advance children who haven’t been adequately educated during the months of March, April, May and June.

In 2015, voters approved a $12.5 million bond for Howell Public Schools for technology improvements. With the technology available, teachers should be able and be expected to prepare lessons that can be posted to YouTube or another video service. Modern technology allows for Zoom meetings with a virtual whiteboard. There are so many ways teachers can prepare lessons so that students may continue their learning, yet that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Students are now facing the possibility of having some or all of their education online next year. We cannot lose another year of education by allowing school districts to provide three hours of work in place of a 30-hour school week.

Our schools can and must do better.

Randy Greene of Howell is parent with children in the Howell Public Schools District, as well as a member of the Howell City Council.

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6 Comments

  1. As Mark Wildon said: “It is a completely different skill set to teach online.” For instance, I consider myself to be a very tech-savvy teacher. Despite the confidence I have in my knowledge and skills in this department I’m still amazed at just how much time it takes me to create a short 5-8 minute lesson video for my students (I spend HOURS creating each individual video).

    I don’t teach in Howell Public Schools, but I know many teachers who do. I have faith that they’re navigating their way through these unprecedented times as best they can. I also have faith that they’re learning A LOT along the way!

    I think cutting HPS a little slack is in order here.

  2. Howell (and all Districts) are doing the best they can with the hand they were dealt. One day they were in the classroom leading discussions, creating positive interaction, and teaching subject matter on all student levels. The next day…..no school. Teachers are doing the best they can with what technology they have/understand. Perhaps you should try and help your children’s teachers with more tech savvy teaching.

  3. I share your concerns, and I worry about the extent to which such a significant part of this school year’s education was impacted. Perhaps the school systems could and should have been better prepared for such a disastrous interruption in their services.

    But I have faith that we have all learned from this experience, and that should such virtual education be required in the future, it will be accomplished more smoothly and effectively. Online education has existed for students for decades. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    I guess I’m giving the schools a pass this time, as this was a lesson learned, so to speak. From this point on, as a citizen I expect systems to be developed wherein both on site and virtual classroom learning will be equally effective – or rather, as equal as possible, because philosophically I favor in person learning over virtual classrooms.

    Thousands of low income students are left out of virtual learning. While that is a lesser issue in Livingston County, it is an issue with our country. And that is hugely concerning to me.

  4. Absolutely disagree. Schools have plans for virtually anything that is possible. My children hide under desks for active shooter drills, they sit on bathroom floors for tornado drills, they collect outside for evacuation drills, they lock down and continue instruction for shelter in place. Schools prepare to manage these issues even during passing times and lunch periods when hundreds of kids are moving at the same time. In addition, education colleges and universities do not instruct teachers to teach within a virtual environment. Many businesses can forward a phone to an employees hone and the work-from-home process can function well. Not true in education. It is a completely different skill set to teach online. Therefore, I do believe that educators are wearing capes right now and are the superhero’s trying to keep our children learning despite a global pandemic. While I am not a parent in Howell, I do suspect that Howell is managing this the best they can with the challenges that are facing all of us. Therefore, my suggestion would be to focus your energies on the field in which you have expertise, government. After all, politicians and government are far from hitting a home run during this pandemic. Thanks to educations everywhere. Your efforts are appreciated by most!

  5. If the Federal government wasn’t prepared, and didn’t supply the states with vitally necessary equipment to battle this virus, then how would you expect our schools to be equipped? The state continuously lowers school funding, year after year! We are back to “Do more with no money”!

What do you think?