APU Careers & Learning Online Learning Original

Preparing K-12 Students for the Inevitable Return to School

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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University

As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the U.S., schools around the nation closed their physical doors. Many schools quickly transitioned to online learning to finish the spring semester.

For many K-12 students around the United States, this shift to online learning presented many challenges. For example, not all students had access to a working computer or reliable Internet service.

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In addition, K-12 teachers were forced to quickly learn new technologies to shift their classrooms to online classes. Many instructors experienced data privacy and security problems, which included security issues with the popular Zoom video-conferencing platform.

Survey of K-12 Educators and District Leaders Reveals Issues with the Transition to Online Learning

Following the shift of K-12 education from the physical classroom to online learning, the EdWeek Research Center conducted a bimonthly national survey of teachers and district leaders to identify issues associated with the transition to online learning. The results of the national survey revealed the following concerns:

  • Following the transition, student and teacher morale went down.
  • Over a fifth of students were no longer participating in school, and larger truancy rates were observed in high-poverty communities.
  • Teachers were concerned that students will begin to fall behind in math.
  • The risk of students who slacked off during this period that could result in failing a class significantly increased.

When Will Schools Reopen for K-12 Students?

There has been a lot of talk about K-12 schools reopening in the fall. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced on June 11, 2020, that there were plans for Florida to open its K-12 public schools to full capacity in the fall. He stated “Having a teacher there, there just isn’t going to be a substitute for that in-person instruction.”

Despite the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the timing of when schools may actually open, it is important for parents to develop a strategy for how they will address the inevitable reopening of their children’s schools. In case schools do open in the fall at either full capacity or in a different capacity where students will be exposed to other classmates, this summer provides a valuable opportunity to help K-12 students develop habits that will increase their safety once school resumes.

Training K-12 Students in Public Health Precautions

One strategy that can help K-12 students prepare to return to school in the fall includes having them develop the habit of always carrying their own personal bottle of hand sanitizer. When children become accustomed to using hand sanitizer to frequently wash their hands this summer, this healthy habit will continue when they return to school and are distracted by friends and school activities. Equipping students with sanitizing wipes for desktops and computer keyboards is also important.

Immediately following school closures this spring, many children were limited in their activities and were sheltered in place at home. As a result, wearing a mask may not have been necessary for many children if they remained home.

However, this summer has provided parents with the opportunity to find the most effective masks on the market, such as the N95 mask. In addition, children should learn how to properly wear a mask for an extended period of time.

Wearing a protective mask is essential, because K-12 students will be required to wear masks throughout the school day. If they become accustomed to wearing a mask this summer, it may be less of a distraction once school begins.

While social distancing standards should be established by school districts prior to the return to school, it is important that school-age children are taught the importance of social distancing when they are on their own in school. Older children can be taught the impact of social distancing by showing them “flatten the curve” charts to help them understand the importance of maintaining social distancing while in school.

Parents Should Work with Their Children’s Schools and Watch for Stress Indicators

Parents have an important role in preparing K-12 students for the inevitable return to school. Parents should seek clear explanations from their school district and local schools regarding the standards and steps that are being taken on campus to keep children safe from the coronavirus.

Also, parents should also monitor their children for any indicators of stress that children may be experiencing due to the changes at school resulting from the coronavirus. When increased stress or fear is observed in children, parents should take the time to communicate with children about these fears and ensure that they are resolved.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor with American Public University in the School of Security and Global Studies. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, local law enforcement’s response to domestic terrorism, and promoting resiliency from police stress. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies at APU. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.

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