School in the Age of Covid: A Series of Impossible Decisions

The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to perform complicated mental gymnastics and assess the risk of nearly every interaction they have. And now that fall is here, parents, teachers, and kids in the US are being forced to make nearly impossible decisions about how to handle school.

For some school districts in the US, that means making school entirely virtual. Others are experimenting with hybrid learning models, where students and school staff are home some days and in the classroom on other days. Some families have formed “pandemic pods”—which has sparked important conversations about privilege, the equity gap in education, and what an increasingly privatized school system might look like. And of course, there’s the not-insignificant question of how safe these various learning environments are when the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in the US exceeds 6 million.

So for this episode of the Get WIRED podcast, we asked our listeners to share their back-to-school experiences and any solutions they’ve come up with so far. We also talked to WIRED senior writer Adrienne So about her experience as a parent of two kids in Portland, Oregon; and we heard from Regina Schaffer, an education technology specialist in Morristown Township, New Jersey, who has written a series of books on the ways educators can narrow the digital divide.

Most people who dialed in still have a lot more questions than answers. But if there’s one theme we took away from these conversations, it’s that education is about to get a lot more personalized, as instructional formats and the various needs of different families come into sharper focus.

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