by Kenneth J. Retzl
Many of us at the Guinn Center, like many families across Nevada, have children that have been affected by the recent school closures. On March 19th, Governor Steve Sisolak ordered K-12 schools closed until April 16th. In the same directive, the governor stated all school districts must provide distance learning opportunities by March 23rd. However, much of how this instruction will be provided — electronic delivery of material with direct teacher observation or based more on an independent study model — is still unknown.
While this type of instruction will be new to most Nevada’s families, virtual or home-based education itself is not novel. Yet, successfully transitioning students to virtual/home-based education, while also maintaining high academic expectations, will take even greater collaboration between school districts and families. Existing guidance from virtual schools are a good resource for families and students.
Parents – Structuring the Learning Environment
- Set and monitor the daily routine of their child.
- Ensure all assigned activities have been completed, and if possible, evaluate comprehension of the topics.
- Depending on the grade level of your child, a positive side-effect of virtual education can be that students begin to “own” their educational experience by setting goals and working independently.
- To the extent possible, maintain contact with your child’s teacher to discuss progress.
Admittedly, these tasks will require a time commitment from parents. This time commitment will vary by student, as well as by grade level (older students may require less time as they are more independent and can take more ownership of their learning).
School Districts – Ensuring Clear Expectations
Because much of the educational experience of the students will be completed at home and possibly not always in front of a teacher, school districts must be clear in their expectations of students. This should include:
- Determining how much teacher contact time the student/class will have (versus independent learning time).
- Clearly describing the assignment requirements so students understand what is being asked of them, as well as providing guidance as to what is required to receive a satisfactory grade.
- Being available for questions from students and parents to ensure comprehension of lessons.
While transitioning school districts from instruction occurring in “brick-and-mortar” buildings to a virtual or home-based setting will likely cause some difficulties, it is only a temporary situation. Through on-going communications between school districts, teachers, students, and parents, we can ensure Nevada’s students continue to receive the education they deserve during these trying times.