Back to School During a Pandemic: Parents Want Safe and Equitable Education

Mindshift ED parent meeting back to school during a pandemic

School districts and charter schools are planning what it will be like to go back to school during a pandemic. This summer, Mindshift ED, a group of parent advocates, has started a petition to speak up about the choices parents want for safety and equity.

I signed this petition—and I encourage you to sign it, too—because these proposals are what families really need to help their students access equitable education during coronavirus. Families should be able to choose whether to have their kids on campus or learning at home. All students need devices and internet access for remote education. And every student needs a plan, including assessments of how they got behind because of COVID-19, to get back on track.

The petition has three key elements to ensure safety and equity when students go back to school during a pandemic. Maribel Gardea and Joe Cantu, co-founders of Mindshift ED, along with their team member Janet Garcia, developed this petition based on surveys and input from parents in the Mindshift ED community.

Academic Recovery Plan for Every Student

The petition asks: “Each student receives a personalized plan for academic recovery by November 1.” Once the 2020–21 school year begins, schools need to assess every to find their learning gaps. Many students fell behind during remote education, and some were already behind because they were attending low-performing schools.

Devices and Internet Access for Remote Education

The pandemic revealed the severity of the digital divide in San Antonio. Therefore, the petition demands: “Every student needs a connected device loaded with the district’s learning programs/software.” Also, “The Districts need to provide no-cost/low-cost internet access to all families.” As I explained in an op-ed, internet access has become a utility, and all students need devices to be able to participate in remote education.

Parents, this also puts a responsibility on us to meet the schools halfway—at least. While our kids are participating in distance learning, we can’t say, “That’s not my job.” As parents, it’s always our job. We need to do our best to follow the teachers’ instructions for using the devices and logging in to the learning management systems.

On-Campus and Remote Learning Options

Going back to school during a pandemic, while paying attention to safety and equity, means giving parents real choices. The petition makes three points:

  • “Continue with a district-provided at-home learning program for part or all of 2020–21, without being asked to provide any justification.”
  • “Remote learning must be REAL learning with educators assigned to it full-time who have proper technology skills and training.”
  • “We must be given the option of choosing a program in another district, with our funding following our children.”

As parents plan for back to school, they need information about what their children’s schools are offering, for both on-campus and remote education. The remote education needs to be robust—not just going through the motions. If another education option (on-campus or remote) is a better fit for their children, then parents should be able to change schools, and the new school should get funding based on that attendance.

The proposals in this petition will help families access equitable education during coronavirus, and I encourage you to sign it now. When it’s time to send out kids back to school during a pandemic, we need to know that they will receive the best possible education.

Joe Cantu and Maribel Gardea Explain the Petition on Charter Moms Chats

Maribel Gardea and Joe Cantu, co-founders of Mindshift ED, joined us on Charter Moms Chats to talk about the petition.

Speak Up About Safe and Equitable Education During a Pandemic

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Inga Cotton

Parent activist and founder of San Antonio Charter Moms. Raising two children to be independent adults who do good in the world.