Civil Beat hosted a Zoom panel discussion on June 25 about distance learning during the time of COVID-19.

Moderated by education reporter Suevon Lee, the panel featured Kea‘au Elementary Principal Janice Blaber, Kahakai Elementary teacher Kevin Argueta, Waipahu High 2020 graduate Kawika Pegram and Parents for Public Schools Hawaii board member Deborah Bond-Upson.

The online event drew nearly 90 virtual viewers and a lively dialogue happened simultaneously in the chat box during the remarks.

Civil Beat hosted a virtual education event last week. Watch it here.

Viewers were able to get some of their questions answered at the end of the hourlong discussion, which focused on several themes: the challenges and lessons of distance learning in the fourth quarter of the 2019-20 school year; how summer school is unfolding with students returning to campus; results from the DOE’s parent and student surveys; and needs and expectations for the upcoming 2020-21 school year which will feature a hybrid distance and in-person classroom model.

Some highlights from the discussion included the need to ensure equity for students and the importance of schools to embrace culturally relevant inclusive practices and culturally relevant pedagogy. Panelists also touched on the importance of not overlooking social and emotional needs during this time.

They also discussed the importance of family engagement and to be mindful that kids during the pandemic are dealing with lots of different things, so it’s important to strike a balance between setting expectations in the classroom while recognizing hardships they might be experiencing at home.

Blaber encouraged more community partnerships with schools. “Don’t wait for an invitation to come and help my school, call me up,” she said.

Argueta said his summer teaching has focused on literacy and that breaking his class up into small groups through virtual learning has been effective.

Bond-Upson said the state faces “an enormous challenge” ahead with the reopening of schools in the fall to accommodate 180,000 students and that systems need to improve to reach kids without technology.

Pegram said the pandemic really exposed the glaring inequities in the school system but that it’s given state leaders an opportunity to “build up something that is more equitable and fair and just.”

Watch the event here.

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