by James C. Sherlock
Virginia has 132 school divisions.
I don’t pretend to know what each has done to address the monumental task of teaching kids who have been at varying levels disconnected from the educational system for 18 months.
But I offer a suggestion that some may already be using: seek the assistance — as volunteers or temporary employees — of retirees.
These may include: (1) retired teachers; (2) retirees with some teaching experience and verified subject matter expertise in high-need specialties; and (3) those with special staff qualifications.
Such an initiative will have to be managed carefully and well to ensure the experience is efficient and effective for both the children and the adults and the schools can access the rules relatively easily.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will need to clear the way by organizing and publishing state licensing guidance.
State licensing authorities including VDOE and the Virginia Department of Health Professions will need to weigh in on what retirees may do to assist.
I suggest VDOE coordinate the state licensing policy statements for in person and remote assistance by retirees and put them online in one spot for access by the schools. I further suggest they do that as a matter of some urgency.
The recruiting can then best be done by school districts and the principals and staff of individual schools.
Many of us would be glad to assist if asked and provided a organized pathway to provide support. Those with health concerns can offer to support from home.
Distance teaching will differ now in one critical way compared to what happened in the last 18 months. The kids will be in controlled environments. They won’t be sitting at home with microphones muted and cameras turned off.
This can be done with full classes, but need not be to be helpful.
I mentioned my enjoyable and successful experience as a volunteer providing remedial math assistance to small groups of 4th and 5th graders for several years. With today’s technology, I would not have to have been sitting there as long as I could see the kids on camera.
Retired special staff — nurses, school psychologists, counselors and others also can offer highly valuable assistance. If the technology and facilities are available and the licensing authorities permit, they may be able to provide direct assistance to students. If not, they may be willing to consult with onsite professionals in select cases and help with their administrative workloads.
It is not too late for a scaled up retiree support option, perhaps beginning in a large scale way in the second semester and next year. It is certainly worth a try.
Never underestimate the willingness of people to help in a crisis.