A recent event by the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative led by The Military Child Education Coalition, a key member of the White Oak Collaborative, discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on K-12 education.

“The pandemic and resulting school closures have made clear the essential role schools play in the lives of students, families, and communities. Besides their core role of advancing learning, they have fed millions of children and families, provided computers and connectivity to those without, and—in many cases—enabled childcare for essential workers,” wrote Michael Griffith, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst at the Learning Policy Institute, cited by CMSI in its report of the working group.

The working group focused on five areas: Access to Learning, Social and Emotional Well-Being, Learning Gaps, Transition, Individualized Education Program, and (IEP)/Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP):

  1. SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING. The working group found that both routine and transparency were crucial in helping relieve anxiety for students, parents and schools. Furthermore, an emphasis on mental and physical health was a focus, “It is important for schools and parents to anticipate the stress this school year will bring for students, and plan for it in school outcomes and in the classroom.”
  2. SCHOOL TRANSITIONS. Assisting families with delayed PCS moves, providing updated educational resources to new families, and flexibility of enrollment were cited as essential to helping students return successfully.
  3. ACCESS TO LEARNING. The rapid rise and implementation of remote learning has been a struggle for many students and educators. The working group emphasized the need to provide the proper resources to adapt to virtual education (suitable internet, equipment) and helping parents know their role in the process, “Offer training to parents on how to navigate distance learning. As parents take on a more active role in teaching their children remotely, it is important to ensure they are empowered and educated on how to help their children learn effectively.”
  4. LEARNING GAPS. “Training and educating parents is one of the keys to successfully navigate today’s educational environment,” the working group discussed. Participants also recognized that continuity of education “across all aspects of education” would be necessary, especially as military families face uncertain PCS moves.
  5. IEP/EFMP SPECIAL EDUCATION. The final area discussed was how the pandemic has affected military child special education programs. By adapting to remote learning, the working group said 1:1 education could continue; granted the transition adapts to a new communication, flexibility and knowledge model. Like the varying degree of severity that the pandemic has had on a regional level, K-12 education should follow suit in its adaptation, “Schools should allow for a more localized approach to decision making to not limit teachers’ options for supporting students with special needs.”