In the Coping with Closure series, the PAPER Team explores the implications of changing realities in education: School closures, virtual instruction plans, and the need to support children & families who rely on schools for more than just learning.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the education world, we are all making efforts to adapt to our new, temporary realities. More and more schools are announcing closure for the rest of the year, and it’s clear that this might be our new normal for the foreseeable future. Remote learning plans, that were once thought to be temporary, must now be adjusted so that schools can teach and support students from a distance for the long-term.

More than a place for learning

Emergency remote learning plans are not just necessary for preventing losses in instructional time. As the conversation around this issue unfolds, it’s clear that the purpose of schools in our communities goes far beyond academics. Students spend the majority of their day in school, and for many, it is a reliable environment in which they receive meals and feel a sense of safety.

Schools are also essential for providing necessary cognitive, affective, and behavioral support and programming for students. This helps students manage their emotions and maintain social relationships. Though all students will require support in managing the effects of the pandemic on their lives, it is especially crucial for high-needs students who will be disproportionately affected by the psychosocial and economic impacts of this pandemic. Incidentally, the support that these students (and their families) require has proven to be the trickiest to deliver via virtual mediums.

The Paper team went searching for some examples of how schools and institutions are working around this issue and came across three inspiring examples:

  1. Magnolia Science Academy 8-bell in California has been offering “Coffee Happy Hour” on Zoom for families, serving as an info-session on distance learning and how they can continue to stay connected with the school. They’ve also maintained a virtual class schedule with lunch breaks and PE included. Magnolia Public Schools have additionally partnered with various community organizations that offer free workshops as well as mental health resources for students and families.

  2. Sequoia Union High School District, in the San Francisco Bay Area, is continuing to provide its students with the Mental Health & Wellness support they received in school. They will hold all sessions virtually so that their school-based care still continues for their students that need it.

  3. Region 10 ESC, in Texas, is interacting with and supporting parents online through Facebook Live so they can talk about behavioral strategies at home, such as setting routines and managing behavior. Districts such as Dallas ISD and Richardson ISD are also setting up counseLling hotlines and resources for parents who can set up times to talk virtually.

Takeaways

One of the biggest reminders from the current pandemic is that schools provide both physical and psychosocial safety to students. It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, especially considering the impact that breaks in routine can have on early age groups that are still developing socioemotionally. Many educators are not just dealing with school closures and remote teaching plans, but also the disruptions they are facing in their own personal lives. Despite this, there are ample examples of educators going above and beyond to get essential services out to students.

Our team at Paper wants to say that these tireless efforts are not going unnoticed!

If you’re an educator, what are some ways your school or district is meeting students’ socioemotional needs during this time? Reach out to us on Twitter – we'd love to hear about your experiences and opinions.

About PAPER

Founded in 2014, Paper is an Educational Support System (ESS) providing students with 24/7 live help & essay review, and teachers with real-time feedback and intervention tools. Paper partners with districts across North America to close the achievement gap and support educational equity.