By Guest Contributor Lisa Wolfe
How we view “school” changed somewhat abruptly just weeks ago. While this would typically be the time when companies would be ramping up their efforts to market products and resources for the 2020-2021 school year, instead everyone is taking a step back to assess what the needs will be in the future.
Consider this: As of this writing, more than 40 states have extended their statewide school closures through the remainder of the school year and that number is likely to rise. Instead of curriculum purchases for next school year, school leaders are focused on ways to ensure that students are participating in remote learning as well as the impact the mid-school year changes will have on student progress. They are faced with making emergency investments in online learning resources, and in connectivity and devices for students.
Meanwhile, school leaders are looking at budget surpluses resulting from the COVID-19 crisis in areas like student transportation, utilities and even spring athletics and events. And, at the same time, because of the economic impact of COVID-19, they are likely anticipating shortfalls in state and local funding for the 2020-2021 school year. A total of nearly $40 billion allocated to K-12 schools and higher education under the Federal CARES Act may help address some of these deficits, but state and local education leaders must also figure out how to navigate this complex legislation.
Plus, educators are planning for the potential of not returning to school in the fall and/or having interruptions to classroom learning next school year, depending on how we flatten the curve or if there is a second wave of the virus.
The impact on classroom teachers is just as real. Supporting social emotional learning has taken on a whole new meaning as they find they are helping students grapple with the family, economic and learning impact of COVID-19. They are now spending what remains of their discretionary fund budgets on resources to support remote learning, rather than pencils and tablets. And teachers are facing real uncertainly about the future, what the 2020-21 school year will look like and what kinds of permanent changes will impact the way that they work with their students down the road.
Honestly, it seems as if no one really knows what “school” will look like for the 2020-2021 school year. A recent post on WeAreTeachers offered a look at the changes that Denmark is making as they plan to have their students safely return to the classroom.
As educators around our country begin to plan changes to keep students and teachers safe at school, it will be important that our industry provides them with the tools and resources necessary to make those changes. Rather than telling them what we have that will meet their needs, we might need to ask them what they need as they create new learning environments.
Lisa Wolfe is the President of L. Wolfe Communications
Founded in April 2000, L. Wolfe Communications offers its clients a network of senior, experienced public relations executives with a variety of complementary experience and expertise in public relations and communications for the education and library markets.