Preparing for the Future of School

How students learn is going to change. We’re engaging with educators and communities to better understand the challenges ahead.

Educators are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle, working to support students and families in any way they can. Around the country, we are hearing inspiring stories about teachers and administrators finding new ways to reach students, from buses serving as mobile hot spots to staffers delivering meals.

While there are still many unknowns about what the future holds in the wake of the crisis, we know this: Learning is going to change. Going forward, teachers and students will engage in different ways, and we are all going to have to adjust to this new reality as we explore the best strategies to inspire and support learners in a fast-changing environment.

This is a paradigm shift. In the months ahead we are going to be rethinking health, safety, wellness, distance learning, technology and a dozen other fundamental topics. We’re not going to be able to go back to school in the same way.

In recent weeks, we’ve been working on several projects that are progressing in California and Texas, and we’ve witnessed firsthand how educators are wrestling with the situation. If anything, while working together on digital platforms, we’re seeing renewed vigor in the level of collaboration and focus on concerns.

To help spark more dialogue, we’ve been reaching out to districts to better understand the monumental questions facing our clients and partners. We’re trying to share stories, explore issues and provide value in any way we can. Our research team, LPAred, is also involved, helping us with data to analyze options and provide a roadmap for the challenges ahead.

Wayfind Education founder (and LPA consultant) Julie Zoellin Cramer calls it a “tsunami” of issues. In conversations with educators, she has found that alternative scheduling methodologies, the shifting role of the teacher and the relationship of parents to learning are all high on the list.

While there are still many unknowns about what the future holds in the wake of the crisis, we know this: learning is going to change.

On one level, educators are worried about what will happen when students return. From social distancing-friendly drop-off zones to safe classroom configurations, administrators are dealing with a myriad of immediate questions.

But we are also hearing the beginning of discussions about how students will learn in the future. Blended learning, combining elements of online programs with traditional place-based learning, is certainly not a new concept, but now it is going to be the focus of many conversations. Most districts will be looking for some balance of asynchronous and synchronous learning, understanding individual progress versus the value of social interaction in developing the whole student.

The closures have put the spotlight on lingering issues that now seem urgent. There is a risk leaving many students behind, especially in rural or low-socioeconomic communities. Lack of technology, internet access or reliable Wi-Fi threatens to divide students between the haves and have nots. We’ve heard many districts express concern that the crisis will exacerbate long-standing social and cultural issues in their schools.

At the same time, there will be real opportunities for progress. Many of the basic policy givens about education are now open for re-examination. Classroom size, funding, the role of the teacher—everything is up for discussion. This disruption will force us to re-examine learning environments and what schools will look like in the future.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be exploring these opportunities and challenges in this space, as we listen to clients and communities to develop our understanding and look for innovative ideas. We hope to get you involved and help in any way we can.

We don’t have all the answers. But we hope to be part of the solutions.