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Baltimore School Leaders and Their Response to COVID-19 – David Guzman, Mary E. Rodman Elementary School

The Fund asked a group of City Schools’ principals to share their perspectives and experience in grappling with school closures and the COVID-19 crisis. In our third blog post of this series, David Guzman, principal of Mary E. Rodman Elementary School, calls for a collaborative effort to rethink and quickly adapt our learning model during this unprecedented time:

Two weeks into school closures; 725,000+ cases; and 34,000+ global COVID-19 related casualties, I am reminded how educators customarily look forward to holidays and extended breaks. It is natural and necessary to regroup, reflect & recharge in order to give the scholars we serve our best. That said, I never envisioned returning to school being outside our control or scope of influence.

For as long as I can remember schools have served as hubs for communities. Schools function as safe spaces where scholars have access to meals, extracurricular activities, and meaningful learning. Yet, this recent and unprecedented phenomenon reminds us that schools mean much more.

With at least four weeks from schools reopening, we are compelled to rethink what matters most and how to be catalysts for change. Accordingly, it is imperative not to underestimate the significance of interdependence while learning. Work packets serve to meet an immediate need and it is essential to identify means that keep learning communities connected. As distance learning becomes more prominent, it is crucial to ensure collaboration as a core value.

Furthermore, leaders and policymakers must consider access to technology. While most families have smartphones, not all have internet connection or devices such as tablets and laptops. Some school districts are ahead of the curve in providing scholars with technology. It’s time to consider options around a sustainable model that gives scholars access to learning platforms while outside of the physical school building.

I am optimistic that we can leverage connected learning communities and technology integration to support authentic learning experiences. In doing so, we can revisit and optimize what terms like rigor, engagement, and student-centered look and sound like.

The next time I have a “tongue in cheek” conversation about being ready for an upcoming holiday or break, I’ll be reminded of Spring 2020. A time when we were reminded that quality teachers are irreplaceable and essential; a time when we realized how vital strong schools and classrooms are in providing structure and stability; a time when adults modeled a growth mindset for children; a time when we couldn’t wait to get back to work.

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