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COVID disrupted learning time, but didn’t inherently disrupt education quality, says CMSD CEO

Online learning
Posted at 1:19 PM, Aug 05, 2020

CLEVELAND — For the first nine weeks of school, a classroom won’t be offered to students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD).

Instead, they’ll have to do all their learning through a computer screen, part of a plan made necessary by the coronavirus for CMSD and many other districts to start the upcoming school year completely online.

“We’re not going to put our kids and community at risk when they’re telling us they’re not comfortable,” said CMSD CEO Eric Gordon. “They’re not comfortable, they don’t feel safe, and the evidence tells us they’re right.”

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"We're not going to put our kids and community at risk when they're telling us they're not comfortable, they don't feel safe, and the evidence tells us they're right," said CMSD CEO Eric Gordon talking about the decision to start the school year online. Gordon announced Friday that students could start returning to the classroom for the first time in nearly a year on March 1, 2021.

That’s why CMSD rolled out its online-only plan, tied to Ohio’s color-coded county system tracking the severity of the coronavirus’ outbreak and spread in each community.

As Cuyahoga County’s status changes, so can the plan for instruction within the district.

Right now, Cuyahoga County is in the red level, the second-most severe of the four.

“So if the county’s red but things are improving, then we think we can get to a hybrid experience and get back to school,” said Gordon.

Part of Gordon’s decision has to do with the fact that so much of his school population is at a higher risk for worse outcomes with the coronavirus.

“My community is 86 percent people of color, and the communities of color have been afflicted at four times the rate of the white community,” said Gordon.

COVID-19 cases worldwide surpasses 9 million
People get tested for COVID-19 at a drive through testing site hosted by the Puente Movement migrant justice organization Saturday, June 20, 2020, in Phoenix. Latinos are especially vulnerable to infection because they tend to live in tight quarters with multiple family members and have jobs that expose them to others. They also have a greater incidence of health conditions like diabetes that put them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Matt York)

He says the focus now is on making the best of a situation that everyone knows isn’t ideal.

Gordon says if educators can overcome the disruption at the end of last school year and the beginning of this one, they can avoid lasting negative impacts on the education for his students.

“There’s been a lot of talk about lost learning and the 'Lost Generation,'” said Gordon. “Learning wasn’t lost. Time to learn was lost. We lost a lot of time. But you’re still able to learn. You maybe didn’t learn to read when I wanted you to, but I still need to teach you to read.”

So far, online learning’s engagement has been inconsistent across Ohio.

5 On Your Side Investigators surveyed 75 districts across Northeast Ohio and found that some large urban districts like CMSD didn’t track online participation. Instead, some districts raced to get students computers and internet access to try to put them in better shape for the fall.

Of districts that did track participation, some of the highest achieving districts had just 80 percent of students participating.

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