A veteran charter school teacher blasted pandemic-era online learning in a New York Times opinion piece that calls for a return to classrooms to renew America’s “collective commitment to true public education.”
Washington, D.C.-based fourth-grade teacher Lelac Almagor penned the piece, “I Taught Online School This Year. It Was a Disgrace,” which contradicts narratives pushed by state officials and teachers unions throughout the pandemic.
“We called school inessential and left each family to fend for itself,” Almagor wrote.
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Almagor, who has been a classroom teacher for 18 years, detailed the way the coronavirus pandemic “fragmented and segregated” her once-diverse school as kids’ education coincided with the depth of their parents’ wallets.
“The wealthiest parents snapped up teachers for ‘microschools,’ reviving the Victorian custom of hiring a governess and a music master. Others left for private school without a backward glance,” Almagor wrote.
“Some middle-class parents who could work remotely toughed it out at home, checking in on school between their own virtual meetings. Those with younger kids or in-person jobs scraped together education and child care — an outdoor play pod or a camp counselor to supervise hours of Zoom classes,” she added.
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The teacher noted that some “kids struggled to focus,” while others lay in bed and played video games or watched TV during class. Some kids experienced technical issues and just about everyone missed out on the “collaborative magic of the classroom.”
“I am still bewildered and horrified that our society walked away from this responsibility, that we called school inessential and left each family to fend for itself. Meanwhile nurses, bus drivers and grocery workers all went to work in person — most of my students’ parents went to work in person — not because it was safe but because their work is essential,” she wrote. “Some children may have learned to do laundry or enjoy nature during the pandemic. Many others suffered trauma and disconnection that will take years to repair.”
Almagor was baffled why restaurants and gyms opened while many public schools remained shuttered. “More of our public school systems should have likewise moved mountains — repurposed buildings, reassigned staff, redesigned programming, reallocated funding — to offer consistent public schooling, as safely as possible, to all children,” she wrote.
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Teacher unions in some states have complicated the school reopening process as they demanded coronavirus vaccinations and other mitigation measures before returning to classrooms. A union in Chicago even requested more time away from the classroom after in-person learning was proven to be safe in other Windy City schools, annoying frustrated parents in the process.
Almagor pondered if parents will trust the school system once things are back to normal but expressed relief that her district is scrapping the online option.
“I hope this means that we are renewing our collective commitment to true public education,” she wrote.
The column aligns with an August 2020 survey that found students from low-income families struggled the most with online learning during the pandemic.
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“This is the best, and truest, thing I’ve read about schools in the New York Times in the 15 months of the pandemic,” New York Post columnist Karol Markowicz responded.
However, the Fox News contributor wrote it was too late to help anyone after a lost year for millions of students.
“This should have ran in September, January, at some point when it might have made a difference for all these left behind kids,” Markowicz added.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and David Rutz contributed to this report.