About the May 13 Board of Education meeting, I would like to address the comment by Liz Barrett (with concurrence by other members of the Board) that “Our teachers are not providing formal instruction, they’re providing information to support distance learning.” [FNP Online, updated]. Nuances at the meeting may not have been completely portrayed, but a general comment is that each of us is living out this stressful situation in our homes “making it up as we go along.” To categorically disrespect how difficult this situation is for each member of the community is arrogant. Some of the negative comments were focused at the state, but others were focused more locally.

Managing “distance learning” is not simply providing “information.” Teachers are now in the position of trying to remotely interface with up to 100 students each. Teachers try to guide students of variable ability and resources through subjects that are challenging. The teachers must provide each student with coherent instructions and lesson plans to meet course requirements without benefit of a course designed for “remote learning” with feedback via individual email rather than class discussion. Have you recognized that students are trying to learn their academic subjects while mostly confined at home in unknown and unknowable family situations of variable stress levels?

The state was not ready for this (despite terrorist attacks, anthrax, hurricanes, blizzards, etc.). The county was not ready for this (although their technology approach seems to be far better than Fairfax County, Virginia). Individual schools expected to provide a range of specific services “on site” that cannot be easily provided remotely. Are you suggesting that individual schools failed by not preparing teachers and students to handle extensive distance learning better for each of their varied courses? Has the county/board provided the resources that would have been needed to have such plans in place?

There was a call to “plan for the future,” but that has little to do with day-to-day instruction at the teacher/student level today. The state/county/board/FCPS administration need to provide a coherent plan for how to conduct school remotely or in blended learning (partly on-site/partly remote) for at least 2020-2021. Define clear objectives, provide adequate resources, evaluate your own lack of preparedness honestly, and make required corrections.

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