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Class is Now in Limbo: Determining the New Normal of Education

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Tosha Wilson-Davis
July 5, 2020

As a ten-year higher education professional serving as an online professor and department chair, trying to gauge what “normal ” looks like has been difficult. In recent months the concepts, masks and social distancing have become the unfortunate new normal. However, when we think about education in general, not just higher education, how realistic is it to have Kindergarten students properly wear a mask seven or eight hours a day? Would there be mask patrols? Would there be punishment for those who do not adhere to proper mask policies?

Considering even those students who may suffer from medical conditions such as asthma or ADHD, upcoming policy directives would need to involve astute evaluation and include necessary exceptions. Could it be that such students would only have the option of homeschooling or virtual learning? If so, what resources will be provided to those students and parents to ensure student success and measure adequate performance? If there was ever a time to overhaul the public education system, now may be the opportune time to do so.

Another level of consideration would be types of masks or face covering allowed and the increased need for extra security in the event of possible school violence. Will all students have to personally invest in proper, ventilated masks? If not, will the school be able to provide them, especially with dwindling budgets and the major funding cuts we have experienced as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak? These are just some preliminary questions that will need to be thoroughly considered and addressed by education administrators across the world for K-12 and higher education institutions.

Budgetary restraints have and will continue to present major hurdles going forward. According to a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers association, “When state governments are faced with reduced tax revenues and increased needs in health care and other essential areas, it’s difficult to allocate funding to higher education over another budget area even if you understand that higher education is essential to future economic development and contributes greatly to our democracy, etc.”

Many courses were canceled or taken off of most college summer schedules because of low enrollment. When the shutdown started in March 2020, non-traditional students, who held jobs and may have paid tuition out of pocket, were no longer able to do so. This caused a trickle-down effect which ultimately led to extensive campus closures along with faculty members not being assigned courses.

Furthermore, there has been more gravitation toward online learning not just in higher education but also in the K-12 arena, which caused a massive burden on families, especially for parents who work 9-5 jobs. Online learning in K-12 has been a great challenge for teachers, parents and students alike. Many lower-income families may not even own a laptop, have access to internet service or be tech-savvy, which are all necessary for success in online education. The lack of any of these imposes a grave disadvantage for lower-income students. In a CNN article in May, it was noted that, “More than 60% of the world’s students are no longer receiving their typical education. Because of the novel coronavirus, schools in 186 countries closed down—some for the remainder of the academic year.”

An April 2020 Harvard Gazette article goes on to assert that, “The former secretary of education for Massachusetts, Paul Reville, is keenly aware of the financial and resource disparities between districts, schools and individual students. The school closings due to coronavirus concerns have turned a spotlight on those problems and how they contribute to educational and income inequality in the nation.” This is a huge issue and more discussion will need to be devoted to this topic sooner than later.

We are now starting month five of this major crisis, and education administrators along with public leaders will need to quickly determine the best path forward for all students, K-12 and college students as well. The new school year for most starts in August and there is not much time to plan. Isolation, depression and the absence of affection (lack of hugs and high fives) may make this task a bit more daunting than any of the previous issues the education system has faced. However, with the increasing case numbers and no vaccine in sight, finding a balanced, safe and effective approach that is suitable for all students will take a massive amount of creativity and time, and will be a huge undertaking.

Author: Tosha Wilson-Davis, MPA, MSCJ, CPRW is the Founder & President of Penciled IN Resume Writing & Career Services. She holds a Master of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Public Administration from Troy University. Tosha is a former department chair and full-time justice studies professor for Georgia Military College and has taught criminal justice, political science, and public administration for five different institutions for the last 10 years. Contact information: [email protected]

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