WEST CHESTER (April 9, 2020) – State Senator Andy Dinniman, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, today issued the following statement regarding the governor’s announcement that all schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
“Although the majority of our students in Chester County have access to the tools and resources necessary to fully participate in online learning, across the Commonwealth that is not the case. In our urban and rural districts, many students lack access to computers or adequate broadband.
The fact is not every child or family is equally equipped to take advantage of remote learning opportunities. Furthermore, simply distributing Chrome books, laptops, or iPads to students is not necessarily going to bridge that gap; it’s not enough. We have an obligation to work with students and parents in the districts that are in the most need to ensure that can continue to learn during this unprecedented public health crisis.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is making available equity grants for financially distressed school districts. Information is available here. Other resources for continuity of education are available online here
Still, there is more we can do during this difficult time to addresses these obstacles and bridge the economic and digital divide. That includes:
- Instruction Materials for Parents – We must provide technical instruction and support for parents and families who are facing challenges to online or virtual learning. I am working with Dr. George Fiore, Executive Director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), utilizing the IU’s own cyber charter school, 21st CenturyCyber Charter School, to provide instruction on online learning for parents, as well as teacher, who may need such information.
- Volunteer Teaching Corps. – I am also working with the CCIU to bring together retired teachers and those in the final stages of their teacher education in a volunteer organization that can provide telephone and online one-to-one tutoring, instruction, and support to students in need. The model created would be able to be replicated throughout the Commonwealth. This concept is similar to what is being done in bringing retired medical personal back to service to assist in our hospitals.
- Online Curriculum and Standards – Post the curriculum and standards online so parents and students can understand and appreciate the existing standards and expectations for learning and progress.
Finally, I am contacting my friends in the Chester County homeschool movement to share their concepts of teaching at home with others who may be interested. Based on my experience, homeschooling works and these ideas should be helpful both for parents and older students assisting younger students.
I thank all of the teachers and staff who continue to go beyond the call of duty to provide instruction under challenge and uncertain circumstances. There are many obstacles for our education system to work in the face of this crisis. However, it is important that we continue to move forward in a way that ensures opportunities are readily available and accessible for all students to learn to the top of their potential.”