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Going back to school

Many school districts and individual teachers have contingency plans for classes to be interrupted for a few days.

We doubt more than a handful had strategies for the current situation, in which the last couple of months of school for millions of students was “canceled.”

There is evidence many educators have handled the situation remarkably well.

Unfortunately, there also are reasons to believe it has not worked out well for many children.

Often, it needs to be noted, that is because parents have not been conscientious in requiring their children to pursue school work while at home.

No realistic substitute for classroom teaching, whether in a home-school setting or a public school, exists.

That is especially true for career classes intended to prepare students for jobs right out of high school.

Even there, creative educators have found ways to help.

Nursing students have been told to find old dolls on which to practice skills.

Agriculture classes have proceeded with plants grown at home.

Auto mechanics courses can shift from the school shop to the home garage.

At-home vocational education has obvious limits, however.

Its importance means finding better ways to provide it during long periods of school closures should be a priority for both educators and technology developers.

Clearly, too, the process of reopening schools needs to take career education needs into account.

Getting vocational students back into their hands-on classrooms may be more important than putting most other categories of pupils back in seats. COVID-19 has been an enormous challenge for educators — and yes, for students and parents.

Examining our response to it and improving our techniques for the next time — and there will be one — is imperative.

But in the end, there is no substitute for the physical attendance of students in classrooms and the hands-on teaching and experience provided.

We expects schools at all levels will have robust communication and direction to parents and students about what’s coming this fall so good decisions can be made.

Thus, we’re hopeful that, in Pennsylvania at least, the state — with serious safety precautions, distancing practices and health-screenings — will resume classes this fall at public schools, colleges and universities with normal on-line learning.

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