Preparing for Another Uncertain School Year

I think we had all hoped that after two school years disrupted by COVID-19, the 2021-2022 school year could be a return to “normal.” 

Yet with the Delta variant surging throughout the country and children under 12 still unvaccinated, it’s becoming clear that educators and families are in for another year of uncertainty.

The theme of this summer’s blog posts has been to figure out the meaning behind the data we collect and track – what’s the “so what?”

We’re all wishing that the taste of “normalcy” that we’ve gotten in early summer could stick around –  we’re exhausted from the constant worry and grief that the pandemic has wrought on us as individuals, families, and communities. 

But if there’s one good thing to come from how long we’ve been dealing with the pandemic, it’s this: it’s not an unknown anymore. We have data to help us navigate it.

This is true on the medical and public health sides of the issue, and it’s also true for education. 

Let’s think about all of the information we already have about how to handle whatever comes our way this school year:

Plus, we’ve got a ton of documentation to remind us of what we know if we feel overwhelmed. 

We’ve got logs of when and how the building was cleaned, we’ve got past family surveys and chat transcripts/recordings from family Zoom meetings to tell us what their needs and concerns were, and we’ve got lesson plans and other records of the teaching and learning strategies we tried and felt successful with. 

… and many other sources of data and information too!

As we turn our calendars from July to August and get ready to embrace the new year, we can look back on our data from the past two years and figure out what the “so what” was. 

Now is the time to dig deep with the information we do have – even as we await more information about what this year will hold. 

As we look back at the “what” from the past two years, think about the impact that each of those things had:

Which routines and practices helped students comply with safety measures and made the community feel safer? Which really didn’t work?

What were our families’ greatest needs, and how did we work to meet them? Did our supports and referrals help mitigate the challenges they faced?

What did our students really enjoy about remote or hybrid learning? How can we replicate those practices? What strategies really did not work and should be avoided this year?

What did we do in a remote or hybrid environment that we might want to keep when we’re in person full-time because they were really effective for family engagement (i.e., Zoom PTO meetings and conferences)?

With some review of your data and reflection on what those data points actually meant for students, families, and staff, I hope that you’ll have a sense of reassurance.

Even though we are about to enter another uncertain year, our data can teach us a lot about how prepared we actually are.