Speaking to a school boards conference in December, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said some of the decisions he has made these past two years might have been wrong, but he was certain he had made the right decision when he reopened all schools in 2020-21.
Hutchinson said that when he sent students home the spring semester of 2020 when COVID-19 first hit, “I purposed then, I said we can’t do this next year, and I immediately said all through that summer, we’re not going to be deterred from having in-classroom instruction in the school year of 2021. And it was a time when our cases were going up. It was a worrisome time, and schools were being closed all over the country, and we were one of the few states that said no, we’re sticking with it, our students need it, and it was also our athletes and our activities and our band members and our choir members. They needed that opportunity.”
The state’s educators haven’t gotten enough credit for what they’ve accomplished during this pandemic. In a matter of days that first spring semester, they sent half a million public students home and then completely changed the way they did business so they could educate them there.
They turned that battleship around on a dime. Teachers of all ages became experts in virtual learning. Schools sent meals and lessons home to families via bus.
And then the next year, they became dual educators. The fall semester of 2021, 22.3% of students were studying remotely full-time and 13.5% were going back and forth. Many students had to leave school for weeks at a time because they had been infected or had to quarantine. Teachers and other adults went to work every day knowing they could get sick, too.
It’s become fashionable during my lifetime to speak contemptuously of government institutions. And yes, it is true that government is often not the most efficient way of doing things, and it is true that we should be wary of it.
But it is not true that everything done by every government institution is always bad. That’s because a lot of good people work for the government – like teachers and other school personnel.
All of that said, there’s now universal agreement that while some students learned well remotely, most would have done better in a classroom. Meanwhile, the disruptions these past two years have affected students negatively.
Based on end-of-the-year assessments, graduation rates and other indicators, only 12% of the state’s school districts showed improvements …….