On September 15, 2020, we celebrated National Online Learning Day! Like Norfolk Public Schools, school systems are gearing up to reopen at some point this school year. Though I agree and believe that high-quality in-person instruction is ideal for student learning, this may not be consistently possible in many places due to public health concerns; Norfolk Public Schools is not the exception. This is why I am committed to taking action to restart smart with an eye toward equity for all our students.
This week the National Urban League released a comprehensive document providing four guiding principles that parents, caregivers, and advocates should be asking regarding school reopening during a pandemic. As the Immediate Past President of the National Urban League Young Professionals and a former member of the National Urban League Board of Trustees, I know the level of commitment and sound research the National Urban League has placed in this document and recommendation. This is why I’m committing to ensure that these four guiding principles are considered in the School Board Discussions, Policies, and School Reopening Plans.
For more information visit: https://nul.org/education/reopening-guide
Four Guiding Principles
- Health & Safety First – The decision to reopen must be consistent with the guidance of public health authorities to keep students, educators, school staff, and families safe.
- Family & Community Input – The decision to reopen must be made in ongoing collaboration with parents, families, and community stakeholders.
- An Intentional Focus on Equity – Reopening plans, whether in-person, virtual, or a hybrid version of the two (and any decision to alter that plan) must specifically promote equity by ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality, well-rounded education regardless of his or her race, income, or zip code.
- Resources & Funding – States must ensure that schools have adequate resource levels and flexible funding policies that are necessary to provide equitable access to safe, supportive, and high-quality learning.
I firmly believe that any school-reopening decision (whether they include in-person instruction, virtual learning, or a hybrid) must be conditioned on meeting the four guiding principles. I stand by these principles, and I believe that these recommendations are actionable and achievable steps that I, as a policymaker and our educational leaders, can make to ensure the health and safety of students, families, educators, and school-based staff.
School buildings should remain closed until these principles can be met and safety assured. Until it is safe to return to in-person instruction, Norfolk Public Schools must continue to shift our efforts toward providing high-quality virtual instruction and necessary support to students, parents, and caregivers, prioritizing the most vulnerable students and their most urgent needs. Every student should have the support, resources, and opportunities imperative to be truly educated and fully supported in a high-quality learning environment.
Hon. Carlos J. Clanton, Ward 3 Member, Norfolk City School Board