(Brett Davis | The Center Square) – In 2020, students and parents got a crash course in remote learning as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now some Washington state lawmakers want to pass legislation that would allow up to one day a week of school to be held remotely on a permanent basis.
“Up to 20 percent of the instructional hours per week required to meet the instructional program of basic education under this section may be provided using asynchronous instructional hours,” states Senate Bill 5735, sponsored by Sens. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond; John Lovick, D-Mill Creek; Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island; and Claire Wilson, D-Auburn.
Asynchronous hours are the ones where students are not receiving any in-person or distance learning from a teacher. That would make the remote instruction day a de facto homework day.
Not everyone supports the proposed law.
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the legislation, if passed, would exacerbate pandemic-related educational problems.
Braun called it “alarming that anyone would propose taking away one-fifth of our kids’ instructional time when teachers and students are trying to regain academic and psychological ground lost during a year of remote learning and isolation,” according to a statement on his official website.
A report last year from the Washington Student Achievement Council examining the effects of COVID-19 on students’ learning – including school closures and remote learning – concluded the pandemic had a profoundly negative impact on academic performance.
“Assessing students’ academic performance during the pandemic is only going to tell us part of the story of the impact on learning,” the report reads. “However, understanding the impact on learning for K-12 students can help prepare educators and policymakers to address the potential effects on future high school graduation rates and transitions to postsecondary education that are critical for our state’s economic and social wellbeing.”
Parents would also be affected by this legislation, Braun pointed out.
“Parents will struggle to find and afford childcare for a that time their kids should be at school,” he said.
Braun went on to say, “Senate Bill 5735 would create an unnecessary hardship for families already struggling to pay the bills, especially for those with multiple children in school or for single parents. It would create an undeserved roadblock for children with special needs who depend on classroom time and teachers’ aides for their development. And it would worsen our shortage of affordable childcare.”
The news on remote learning, however, is not all bad.
Remote education technology is “a tool that is amazing in certain use cases, and we tried to make it one-size-fits-all and it wasn’t designed for that,” Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors, told GeekWire, in a story that noted some of the advantages of remote learning.
These reported advantages include including less stress for kids with social anxiety, improvements in digital literacy for students and teachers, and gamifying instruction that creates a richer learning experience.
Multiple Washington state school districts have announced plans to move some or all schools to remote learning as a surge in the more contagious but milder omicron variant of COVID-19 keeps educators and students at home.
SB 5735 is set for a 10:30 a.m. hearing on Wednesday.