Remote learning is an interesting idea. This is obviously the first thought many of us had. After all, the thought of kids being out of school for several weeks, not completing their curriculum for their grade level, and staying home honestly drives most people crazy. I have an alternative view about remote learning, at least for those kids in older grades.
Older kids are the key to getting through this difficult time, with the anticipated spread of COVID-19. While we all hope the US does not experience the same rise in transmission of the virus as compared to Italy, China, or Iran, the reality is that we need to be prepared for the worst.
Part of being prepared means accepting the fact that many industries will be at risk of grinding to a halt. This may in part be due to workers in different industries getting sick themselves, but in many instances the closure of schools and day care centers will mean that parents will experience a particular challenge in getting to work.
Our older children have the chance to save lives! How? What if older children watch toddlers and infants of parents who work in critical industries? Industries that cannot face any, even temporary, interruptions include food service (supermarkets, etc), healthcare (hospitals and outpatient clinics), utilities (electrical, water, etc), supply chain, among others. By helping workers in these critical industries to do their jobs, we will remain well fed, more healthy, and without any interruptions in key services and utilities.
Schools, which are currently closed, can even serve an instrumental role in keeping the trains running. How about having school nurses screen older kids who are interested in babysitting, and perhaps having elementary school nurses screen toddlers before the babysitters show up for duty? I would imagine that some teachers may also be willing to get involved, by helping to organize and coordinate this effort.
I can tell you right now – if doctors and nurses, for example, cannot show up to work due to having kids at home, we risk under-resourcing our hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers and even have may experience unfortunate consequences for patients which could otherwise be avoided.
Give our older children the ability to make a difference, and they will make a profoundly positive impact on our communities.