(WFSB) – The coronavirus has impacted education in ways no one ever expected.
All learning is done online, students don’t need to be present or an 8 a.m. bell, and rain, sleet, or snow won’t impact learning anymore.
Now, some are wondering if education as we know it has been changed forever.
March 13th is the date that teachers and students all across the state had their education shifted.
“Nobody really knew that this would happen in September,” said Patty Roy, a teacher at Windham Middle School.
Channel 3 teamed up with Connecticut’s two teacher unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, to get a behind the scene look at how distance learning has impacted teachers and families.
The survey reached nearly every public school teacher in the state and more than 1,000 responded.
When asked about returning to school, 38 percent said they weren’t sure when they’d return to school, and 33 percent are hoping to go back in the fall.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a normal for a long time,” said Jan Hochadel, AFT president.
Whenever students and teachers get back to school the overwhelming majority, 73 percent of teachers believe the coronavirus crisis will permanently change public education in Connecticut.
“We need to think about if something like this happens again, what are we going to do for resources,” Roy said.
Channel 3 wanted to know the long-term impacts. Ali Kirchberger is a 5th grader Teacher of the Year at Hopeville Elementary School in Waterbury. She feels when teachers master distance learning, there could be fewer snow days.
“Perhaps we’ll have here learning days at home more often during weather,” Kirchberger said.
For further analysis, Channel 3 went to Dr. Anne Dichele. She’s Quinnipiac University’s School of Education Dean. She says the coronavirus forced educators to look in the mirror and reevaluate priorities.
“What was the real essence of what matters in school and how can we hold on to that,” Dichele said.
Almost immediately, the state announced grading would switch from A’s, B’s, C’s to pass/fail.
Dichele says the virus may also change the look of schools as we know them, at least in the first months back to school.
“We’re going to have to test for the virus, maybe have thermometers at the door,” Dichele said.
One thing distance learning has done is thrown the 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. school day out the window.
“That doesn’t work for working parents. It just doesn’t work for parents and it doesn’t work for a lot of kids. Maybe in light of this, who knows, if we do more distance learning, we split schedules, because you can’t have 700 kids in a building at once,” Dechele said.
Most teachers said students were accepting of the new normal, but acknowledged many wee also stressed, confused, and frustrated by it.
“No one really expected to do it overnight, so teaching online is different from teaching well online,” Dichele said.
Our series highlighted teachers like Wendy Lou Duon from Maloney High School in Meriden, who went above and beyond by posting step by step video tutorials online for her students.
Dichele says these are the good things to come from distance learning and when its elevated to this level, it’s something that can be a permanent addition to education.
“For some students, being able to watch that video over again and stop tape, think about it and go back to it, to figure out the question, if it’s well done, there are a lot of online learning opportunities that are quite strong,” Dichele said.
Ultimately, Dichele says nothing can replace a teacher sitting down to read with an elementary student, the social growth and relationships established on a middle school playground, the team building exercises from high school sports, or the chemistry experiments during lab time or the independence of being on a college campus.
“The relationship piece is really important, and I don’t think we’ll ever lose that entirely, but will it look different? It has to, we don’t really have a choice,” Dichele said.
One thing that has been exposed by the crisis is the digital divide. Every teacher Channel 3 spoke with could share an example of a family who doesn’t have laptops or access to the internet.
This is forcing the state to take a hard look at how to bridge that gap.
The commissioner of the Department of Education admits this and says it has become an instant priority.