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Virtual town hall sheds light on needs in education post COVID-19

Virtual town hall sheds light on needs in education post COVID-19
May 20
15:35 2020

On August 17 students in public schools across the state are scheduled to return to classrooms for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close. While a date is set for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, what school and classrooms will look like when students return is still a mystery, but there will definitely be some changes.

During a virtual town hall hosted by Action4Equity earlier this week, Superintendent Angela P. Hairston said district leaders are preparing for possible changes to every aspect of the education system as we know it, from the bus ride to lunch time.

“Most of us realize that there will be some challenges in having school as we’ve had it before,” Hairston said. “We have to start talking about what’s going to happen when we walk into school on August 17. What will school look like for us.”

Hairston said the district is looking at a lot of different things when it comes to the future of education here in Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County. While nothing is set in stone yet, one thing that is almost certain is that when students do return to the classroom, they can expect to see a lot of empty seats.

Hairston said parents have already reached out about continuing virtual learning. “That has already started to be a topic for many of our parents,” she continued.

“But others who desire that opportunity will not have that opportunity due to home-life situations and so we will be looking at various aspects of opening school.”

Moving forward, students, teachers and parents will have to get used to a blended model of learning. Hairston said because of the shift to a blended instructional model, where students will need access to the internet to complete assignments, now more than ever there needs to be a push to break down barriers that impede students’ ability to learn.

“My concern is as we move to blended learning … what happens to children who do not have access? What happens to our children who are increasingly falling behind because they do not access?” She asked. “We are of the opinion that universal access is no longer an option, it’s no longer a question, it’s a must.”

Earlier this month The Chronicle reported that 5,000 students in the district had not logged on to complete their e-Learning assignments.

To address some of the issues with blended learning, Hairston said the district’s equity officer is working on establishing an engagement task force that will take a closer look at why students are not engaging in e-Learning. District leaders have created a list of students who haven’t been participating and there are plans to reach out to each student and family in their homes.

“We’re looking at ways to get into our communities and teach our parents how to really work with their children when they’re at home in a virtual world,” Hairston said.

Thanks to a partnership with Rep. Evelyn Terry, The Forsyth Promise, and the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, later this month Spectrum will install Internet access at more than 130 homes in Cleveland Avenue Homes and Piedmont Circle. When discussing the initiative and the continued need to help students in our most vulnerable communities, Malishai Woodbury, chair of the board of education, said it’s going to have to be a community effort.

“We know that the school system will not be able to do this alone,” Woodbury said. “We will have to partner with other community organizations and agencies.”

Other speakers during the Action4Equity Town Hall were Rep. Evelyn Terry, Rep. Ashton Clemmons, Val Young, president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators (FCAE), and Matt Ellinwood, director of the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project.

The town hall can be viewed by visiting “Action4Equity” on Facebook.

Action4Equity is a grassroots organization geared toward equity within the K-12 education system. The organization, which was originally called Action4Ashley, was formed in response to the local school system and board of education’s handling of reports of mold at Ashley Elementary causing health issues for students, faculty, and staff. For more information visit www.action4equityws.org.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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