The coronavirus pandemic has upended public education across the country, and state leaders are still figuring out what school might look like next year. Parents and educators across Ohio are also wondering what kind of lasting impact the pandemic could have on education as a whole.
“The disruption caused the education system to have to do business differently,” said Paolo DeMaria, the Ohio Department of Education’s superintendent of public instruction.
DeMaria says educators face many challenges in a world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“The human interaction is fundamental to the educational process, and not because of the sort of transfer of content knowledge. But it’s the socialization. It’s that connection between teacher and student that’s hard to replicate over a video screen,” he said.
Ohio is dealing with a $300 million budget cut to K-12 education while the Department of Education is trying to come up with health and safety recommendations for next school year.
“What’s unfortunate is it comes at a time when it actually would be useful to have more resources,” DeMaria said. “You know people are talking about, ‘What should we be doing during the summer? What extra time do we need to prepare for the fall?’”
DeMaria expects some changes forced by the pandemic to stick around going forward and says the pandemic might give educators pause to rethink major pieces of the system.
“Here’s a grade level, and maybe you got 60% of the content, but that’s enough for us to move you to the next grade level. Is it time to have deeper thoughts about those realities?” he asked.
As for next school year, DeMaria says his department has drafted health and safety guidelines for local districts and is getting feedback from educators and health experts now.
DeMaria says local districts will be free to customize their own plans for the fall. DeMaria hopes to finalize those recommendations and get them to local districts in the next few weeks.
“And then leave it to the professionals to decide, ‘Okay, if those are the parameters within which we have to work, what does the school day look like? What does the delivery of educational services look like?’”