Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
Focusing on equity during distance learning and reopening schools
Little did we know that a year after schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we would still be supporting distance learning for students alongside developing plans for reopening campuses. School boards have grappled with many similar challenges, regardless of location or enrollment, including how to ensure systems of support are in place to serve each and every student, especially our at-promise student groups.

Students of color, those from low-income backgrounds, English learners, students with disabilities, homeless youth and students in foster care were less likely to have rigorous, engaging and positive educational experiences before the pandemic. There is a high probability that school closures will have deepened these existing inequities in our education system. As boards discuss continued distance learning and reopening schools, they can consider the following questions:

  1. How are we ensuring all students maintain access to the devices they need to fully participate in distance learning? What are the considerations for students who want to continue with distance learning now that schools are reopening?
  2. How are we ensuring access to reliable, high-speed internet for all students whose families choose to continue distance learning?
  3. How are we continuing to support students with disabilities who need specialized instruction, related services and other supports during ongoing school closures? How will we transition them back to in-person learning?
  4. How are we ensuring the instructional needs of English learners are supported during school closures? What supports are needed now as schools transition to in-person instruction?
  5. What kind of support and professional development are we providing to school leaders and teachers, especially in schools serving students of color and students from low-income backgrounds? How do we support educators of English learners and students with disabilities?
  6. How are we continuing to support the social and emotional well-being of students, their parents/caregivers, and teachers during school closures and into the reopening of schools?
  7. How do we maintain regular communication with students and families — particularly the most vulnerable — during school closures? When the students return to school, how do we maintain that communication?
  8. How are we measuring student progress to ensure students and families have an accurate picture of student performance for this school year? As schools reopen, what academic support programs will be provided to students?
  9. If we offer a summer learning program, how will the curriculum address learning disruption from school closures? How will we measure where students are and their subsequent academic growth?

During the pandemic, we have had our successes and challenges as boards of education. We must govern with a lens of equity as a driving force in our decision making as trustees. We must always provide our students what they need, when they need it. The pandemic has made this even more clear.