Four of Every 10 Districts Not Ready for Remote Learning During Coronavirus Outbreak, Survey Shows

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As schools and districts across the country shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak, many K-12 systems are scrambling to get together options for virtual, remote learning.

A new survey by the Education Week Research Center suggests many of them are simply not ready.

The nationally representative survey of district and school leaders asked those officials if/when they were to close their schools due to the coronavirus, how long they could “productively provide every child in the district with e-learning/remote learning opportunities.”

Forty-one percent of district leaders and principals say their districts simply could not provide every child with those virtual lessons.

Twenty-two percent of those surveyed were much more optimistic, saying their school systems could provide e-learning for as long as needed. See the full results, below.

How many school districts can deliver lessons virtually during coronavirus/ EdWeek Market Brief

The survey was conducted with 1,165 district and school leaders on March 10-11.

The responses from the rest of the K-12 leaders surveyed offers a mixed view of districts’ virtual capabilities.

Eleven percent said they could offer e-learning opportunities to all students for a few weeks, but less than a month. Nine percent said they could do it for about a week. Seven percent said they could do it for the remainder of the school year.

Five percent said they could do it for less than a week.

Many school districts face complex challenges, in trying to ramp up ambitious e-learning efforts in the midst of a public health crisis. Those challenges stem not only from districts’ tech limitations, but from the tech limitations faced by the students and families they serve.

Susan Enfield, the superintendent of the Highline public school district outside of Seattle, gave voice to those challenges in an interview Friday with EdWeek Market Brief.

The district doesn’t have a 1-to-1 device program for every student, Enfield explained. And not all of the districts’ 20,000 students have internet access at home, or an adult who could supervise their usage.

“We can’t do remote learning at scale,” Enfield said. “Every decision I make as a superintendent has to be through a lens of equity, and it has to be about solutions and strategies that are scalable, equitable, and provide opportunities for all kids.”

So Enfield’s district, which will be shut down until late April, is moving forward with other options. It’s providing online resources for many students, and hard-copy packets for other students.

Those packets will be available for parents to pick up at the districts’ school buildings, and the district is also exploring options for delivering them, said Enfield. (Enfield is on Education Week’s board of trustees.)

Check back on EdWeek Market Brief for more coverage of the coronavirus, and how education companies can respond to school districts’ needs.

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