2020 will long be remembered as a year that changed education forever – really, most things.
As an education reporter, all I could do was try my best to keep up.
Students, parents, teachers and administrators were all thrown into something none of them had planned for, prepared for or had any sense of what to expect. But the gears of education must grind forward, so schools have done all they can to teach students in school, and in their homes.
The challenges, though, have been immense. Plans change daily; students struggle to engage in a remote environment; and broader community spread of the coronavirus inevitably impinges on schools’ ability to maintain in-person instruction for students.
But the hard-earned lessons from the pandemic could go a long way in improving education for years to come. Here’s a roundup of some of the most important education — and otherwise –- stories I wrote this year:
Parents had especially hard jobs at the start of the school year, and working moms had the hardest jobs of all. Parents grappled with the challenge of scheduling childcare, work and set their kids up for a successful learning environment. This story outlined some of the many challenges parents faced this school year as they readied for the first day.
The impact this school year will have on the long-term education of children around the region and country is likely hard to understate. And the impacts will undoubtedly exacerbate deep racial and socioeconomic disparities that long plagued education. Those impacts were evident in the fall as Schenectady school officials laid off over 400 staff members and undid years of investment in the face of potentially devastating state aid cuts. High School Senior Class President Elizabeth Tchako, a vocal advocate for students, talked with me about what those eliminated programs meant to students.
Students were ultimately allowed to return to school buildings this fall, a relief for educators and students alike as some sense of normalcy returned – even if only in small part. School looked equal parts familiar and foreign as I observed kids in classrooms for the first time in months. Of course, me and the students were masked up, and I did have to sign into each classroom I entered in case contact tracing would be necessary. Here’s my first-day account from Duanesburg, one of the first district’s to welcome students back in September.
My education writing has also taken me into the world of the Child Victims Act and the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed since the law temporarily lifted statutes of limitations for allegations of child sex abuse. Most of the stories I’ve written on the subject have been based on the sparse details of legal filings, but this fall plaintiff Colleen Garbarini shared he deeper story with me as she reflected on her childhood abuse in the Catholic Church and the long-lasting impacts on her life. Like any story this year, the pandemic intrudes as Garbarini details how her traumatic experiences has complicated her ability to wear a face mask for an extended period of time. The story shines a light on what so many countless abuse victims are dealing with everyday.
In coverage even more far removed from education, I tracked the massive surge in voter turnout during this year’s presidential election. With early voting in place for the first presidential election and more accessible absentee rules than ever before – not to mention an election that generated a fair amount of interest – voter turnout increased over 10 percent across the Capital Region.
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