If this were like any other year, our nation’s 56 million children would be filing into our 130,000 K-12 schools in person this week. But the pandemic has left teachers, parents and local officials with unprecedented challenges.
That’s why Thrive Global has come together with Dream Corps, Nextdoor, DonorsChoose and the CAA Foundation to create #BackToSchoolSolutions. It’s a one-stop nationwide hub to surface the best solutions, the most innovative ideas, and the most inspiring stories from people and communities around the country.
Education is our most hyper-local institution. The needs are different in every family and in every community. And yet there are common goals and common challenges for all parents, teachers and communities. And with #BackToSchoolSolutions, our mission is to convene a national conversation of hope and positive change.
As the school year begins, parents and teachers are understandably stressed and anxious. According to a Washington Post-Schar School survey released this month, 80% of parents are worried that a full in-person schedule will lead to their families or teachers getting sick. Nearly as many are concerned it would cause community rates of the coronavirus to rise. There have already been outbreaks at reopened schools in several states, including Mississippi and Georgia. And a DonorsChoose survey of 1,000 public school teachers found that 86% say they’re worried, anxious or overwhelmed about returning to school in the fall, and 8 in 10 expect they’ll have to close their classrooms and move to remote learning. Yet only around half say they feel more prepared to teach online than they were when they were suddenly thrust into that role this past spring. Teachers estimate that more than two-thirds of their students lack the resources they need for remote learning. Most sobering, 97% think changes in teaching resulting from the pandemic will have negative consequences for their students’ education.
We know that our schools are more than just places to learn. They’re communities of care, serving vital roles for our children in emotional development, nutrition, exercise and mental health. In July, Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the C.D.C., warned Congress that if schools don’t reopen there could be “significant public health consequences.” And of course, those consequences will be most severe for our Black, Latinx and low-income students. A report this summer from McKinsey estimated that a year of part-time school and intermittent closures could increase the existing achievement gap for those children by as much as 15 or 20%.
At the same time, we also know that teachers, parents and community leaders are moving ahead with creative and original ways to continue to educate and nurture our children. For example, there’s Sarah, a 10th-grade teacher in New Jersey, who provided her students with the basic supplies needed to do physics labs at home so she could teach speed, velocity, acceleration, momentum and more. There have also been solutions sent to Thrive Global by members of our community, like this list of ways to make homeschooling less stressful. And on Nextdoor, there are conversations happening in neighborhoods across the United States about back-to-school challenges and solutions — showing not only the clear need for support among parents and teachers, but also the creative workarounds that are happening all over the country. One Nextdoor member from San Mateo, CA put out a call for donations for an “outdoor school that will help serve low-income families,” and the request was met with many enthusiastic responses. Neighbors rallied around the idea offering outdoor toys, books, school supplies, desks and outdoor furniture including a tent — not to mention the generous donation of teaching time by a credentialed teacher!
And we want you to add your voice and your ideas. On September 12th, #BackToSchoolSolutions will be hosting a National Day of Conversation and Action. You can go here to register and find out how you can connect with others and be a positive catalyst for change in your community. And then we hope you’ll continue the conversation and keep adding to our collection of crowdsourced solutions for one of our most pressing and urgent challenges facing our nation today.
So please join. Our children, and our future, depend on how we all rise to this occasion.