The Corner

Education

If Schools Are Online-Only, Can’t They at Least Run Full-Time?

Tracey Pucci helps her son Foxton Harding, 12, with a school assignment for Northshore Middle School, which moved to online-only schooling for two weeks due to coronavirus concerns, at their home in Bothell, Wash., March 11, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

Last week, the Fairfax County, Va., public schools gave me two options for my soon-to-be kindergartner: fully online instruction, or two days of in-school instruction per week. I chose the latter and was annoyed there was no fully in-person option, because (a) children are not much at risk from COVID-19; (b) restaurants have been serving people indoors here for a month, meaning we seem to be fine with waitresses and cooks going to work as usual with certain protections in place; and (c) I can’t imagine “online instruction” is very effective on a five-year-old, assuming it works at all.

I was not part of some crazy right-wing COVID-denier fringe. About half of parents in the district picked the in-person option, 60 percent if you include those who didn’t respond and were given the in-person option by default.

But then last night I got this email from Scott Brabrand, the district’s superintendent (emphasis his):

The changing course of the COVID-19 pandemic with infection rates surging both nationally and regionally has required us to alter our plans for school year 2020-21. Today, the Fairfax County School Board supported my revised recommendation that we begin the 2020-21 school year with virtual learning for all students. The online school year will begin, as scheduled, September 8.  Should health conditions improve, we would first bring back students for intervention supports on a limited basis.   Following that, we would work to bring students back to school as soon as possible starting with elementary school students, select PreK-12 special education students and English Learners. . . .

As Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute had pointed out earlier in the evening, cases in Northern Virginia are flat, actually, though the rest of the state has seen an increase:

More from the e-mail:

  • Online learning provides four days (Tuesday through Friday) of live, face-to-face instruction with teachers. . . .

Wait, what? Four days?

  • Mondays will remain a teacher planning day with intervention supports for selected students that we hope can be provided in-person.

Oh.

You can’t make this up. The schools managed to shut their doors and reduce the instruction they’re providing to most students by 20 percent. More for elementary schoolers, if the plan is still to instruct them only 2.5 to 3.5 hours a day — not that I’m clamoring to make my kid sit in front of a computer any longer than that.

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