Schools of Thought 2020
Our Annual Education Guide Looks at Schooling in the Time of COVID-19
By: Leslie Dinaberg | Photos by: Daniel Dreifuss
Published November 19, 2020
What a difference a year makes, particularly when that year is 2020.
As I revisited some of the latest news and trends related to education in Santa Barbara County for the second year in a row to prepare this special issue, priorities have shifted dramatically. Outdoor space is at a huge premium — not only for its educational value and the boost to our Zoom-fatigued spirits that nature provides, but also simply because being outside has a much lower risk for COVID-19. With depression and anxiety at high levels for people of all ages, social-emotional learning and strategies that embrace the whole child as a priority over straight academics are also more important now than ever before. And as always, so is keeping in step with the latest technologies, both programmatically and with new facilities.
Unfortunately, like just about everything else in 2020, the pandemic has amplified the inequities in education even further. I’m a public school daughter of two public school teachers, and I’m a big believer in and supporter of our public school system. That being said, if I had a K-12 age child at home right now, this would be the year I would be scrimping and saving to send them to an independent school. For one thing, they’re actually able to open.
And make no mistake, the inequity here is not about political will — it’s all about the money. The independent schools simply have drastically fewer students to worry about with far more resources to take care of them right now, which translates to much better teacher/student ratios and the ability, in some cases, to devote separate teachers to online and on-campus teaching cohorts. They enjoy much more outdoor space to spread out and be physically distanced, and have the money to make facility improvements more easily — both indoors and outdoors — to accommodate health and safety concerns. They also have more resources to test and regulate student and staff health and to enforce consequences on those who don’t follow the safety rules.
That being said, Midland Head of School Christopher Barnes summed up the way I think most everyone in every kind of educational institution is feeling these days. “With all of my heart and soul, I’m pouring everything I can into our particular little project, but also being a participant with other schools … that aspire mightily to follow all of the recommendations of public health, and be their partner not their adversary,” he said. “Do I have too much stuff to read and figure out? And does it sometimes contradict itself? Yes, absolutely. In any case, we’re dealing with a global health pandemic. This is not some little thing.”
For this special section, we asked the issue’s sponsors about what’s exciting in their schools and organizations, and then produced the editorial content independently.