COVID-19 impacts shine a spotlight on inequity in the classroom

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — With the COVID-19 pandemic came professional, personal and financial costs for adults across the region, and for many of our children, it has come with a huge academic cost.

“Between 2,000 or 3,000 students haven’t logged in at all during this time. 75 percent of them are black and brown students,” said Diego Urubitu of identity, a community organization that helps underserved youth.

Urubitu and others served as panelists on the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s webinar on Monday. All panelists were in agreement that the switch to online learning highlighted challenges already facing vulnerable students.

“We had the charge of coming up with an online platform that addressed those same inequities that we already knew and were aware of in a brick and mortar setting,” said Monifa McKnight, deputy superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Urubitu said like other impacts of the pandemic, the academic toll disproportionately affects students of color and students from low income households.

“There’s a lot of trauma in black and brown communities that has gone unaddressed and these traumas have been exacerbated by the situation. Imagine the anxiety they must feel when they can’t pay the rent and they don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Urubitu. “Many of them live in a one-bedroom apartment with an entire family and there’s no quiet space to work.”

McKnight says the summer months will be crucial when it comes to planning ahead and making up for lost time.

“We need to ask: Who are the students who may have lost time and experiences on this online learning platform? How are we engaging them specifically and planning for that in the small group setting, in resources, instruction and in time?,” said McKnight.

She also said that one benefit of online learning is being able to increase capacity for summer learning programs. More information for summer programs should be released soon.

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