Eight hours of instruction a day will not be possible, Reddick recognized. “But we can build up parent rigor over time. We are parent coaches for now. We can tackle this thing here, and that thing there, with them. We can help to find a way to make it work.”
Reddicks condemned those who invoked legal obstacles to continuing schools. “It’s ethically out of control. It’s almost like you’re reverse engineering a reason not to serve kids. These are serious cop-outs. Doing nothing is much worse than doing it virtually. We can’t be the ones responsible for our students not moving forward in life.”
Indianapolis Classical Schools operates two high schools, Herron High School and Riverside High School, offering a classical liberal arts education to a diverse student population of 1,298. Organized as “innovation schools,” a form of in-district charter, both schools launched e-learning without delay on Monday. In 2018 U. S. News and World Report ranked Herron, where the student body is approximately half students of color and half white, as the number two public high school in Indiana.
Students sign into Haiku, a digital learning platform, and attend online office hours with their teachers through video calls. Parents and students receive daily automated text messages as assignments are completed. I spoke with one 12th-grade student, Ashantea Gilliard, who will be attending the University of Evansville next year, about her experience this week. She allowed that it has been emotionally difficult. “I’ve struggled to have motivation,” she told me, “but I’m motivated to graduate.” Because of a class trip to Taipei last November, she is behind in her work in Latin and English. She misses her classmates, their vivid personalities. “It’s isolating,” she said. Some students have set up group chats and are working on assignments together. In a blow to the school’s community, an athletic coach was diagnosed with COVID-19 this week, but staff and students continue to press forward.
As the pandemic gains force, it may be that the already vast discrepancy in quality among schools in the United States will be obscenely amplified. Schools, networks, and districts like Purdue, Paramount, and Indianapolis Classical will move insistently to preserve their students’ education: schools that are determinedly focused on results and fueled by a can-do spirit, benefit from a distinctive vision and accompanying rituals and traditions, deploy richly developed and vigilantly maintained systems and structures, and enjoy the passionate subscription of staff and parents. At least for now, schools lacking these assets will hesitate, and, ensnared by legal and compliance concerns, either remain closed altogether or point students to an incoherent array of online resources. What then will happen?