(TNS) — If we’re not careful, years from now they’ll be known as the “COVID Kids” — the millions of American students, especially those in high school, whose final, formative year of classroom education sputtered and sank because of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 — and whose lives were seriously affected.

We hear how 600,000 students in Miami-Dade and Broward are still learning remotely and taking part in virtual classes on Zoom and Google Hangouts.

But we know that this is not working for all students. Attendance is at 93 percent in Miami-Dade, so we’re talking about that 7 percent, that group that has tuned out, gotten lost in the algebra and the past participle. Maybe schooling from home is something some parents are uncomfortable doing or unable to do because they have to work, they are essential. What will become of these students?

Potential Drop-out

There is no longer a teacher walking down a row of desks who can offer some one-on-one help. How many kids have turned off their online classes or decided that this is the time to drop out and get a job, something they would not have done without the pandemic.

Of course, this disruption will be a harsher blow to low-income kids, often African-American and Hispanic students from Miami-Dade and Broward whose continued education and graduation might already have been on a fragile foundation.

As we make our way back to the new norm, local school districts must be committed to rescuing these kids. We can’t let them become a new kind of pandemic victim, a “COVID Kid.”

In Miami-Dade, we are glad to see that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, working to craft a plan for the new reality, has already proposed a remedy. This week, Carvalho unveiled a new way to educate children in the age of coronavirus.

To his credit, and that of the School Board, the district is pledging not to leave behind the 46,000 students in the district whose educational status and possibility of graduation were tenuous even before their world turned upside down.

An Opportunity

“We’ve decided to turn an unprecedented health crisis into a promising educational opportunity for students who, due to the fragility of their condition, have carried multi-year achievement and performance deficits,” Carvalho told the Editorial Board. We can get behind such a plan.

At Wednesday’s virtual School Board meeting, Carvalho had a litany of ways to adjust and help all students succeed. Kudos to the superintendent for zeroing in on academically struggling kids.

Come August, Carvalho says, the district is thinking of reassigning students from crowded to less crowded schools to maximize social distancing, putting fewer students on bus routes and staggering pickup and drop-off times. Students could go to school in double shifts. There could be a single flow of student traffic during class changes and more classes held outdoors. Students could face mandatory hand-washing based on scheduled cycles. Attendance guidelines will get a second look, and the school cafeteria may see significant changes.

“We want to be prepared for a whole host of possibilities that may unfold through the summer months leading to August 2020,” Carvalho told the Herald.

Carvalho’s plan is to focus on those 46,000 students identified as fragile to help them recover and regain lost learning. The district may be open this summer, the closest the district has come to year-round schooling. But it’s a worthy cause. We need to help these children, and make sure none fall even further behind.

©2020 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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