Across the country, many statewide and local school districts are in the process of reopening their K-12 schools. In California, 9,000 out of 11,000 schools have been cleared to reopen, and in North Carolina, a new bill just allowed for schools to bring students back for a full five days per week. However, reopening schools is not as simple as restocking the pencil jars and putting gas in the school busses. Questions of teacher and student safety, childcare needs and setbacks in student progress are leading some parents and educators alike to push for a longer period of remote or hybrid learning.
While remote learning brings about it’s own unique challenges and barriers, it’s interesting that in some states and districts, remote learning may actually be a better, safer option for students. This begs the question: where? The answer may come from a new study that analyzed the cities that are best equipped for remote learning. The study was based on a number of factors like internet and computer access, state spending per student and even family incomes that can tackle costs of childcare and private tutoring.
According to the study, the best cities for remote learning are Seattle, Virginia Beach, and Portland. Generally, most of the top 20 cities were located along the west coast, in high-income, high-internet-access areas like San Francisco and San Diego. Other hubs of remote-learning leaders were found in mid-Atlantic states like North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
It is important to note that even in these cities that are well-equipped to handle remote learning, different students or even different schools within districts may see wildly different levels of success in continuing education online. As was shared by a Seattle teacher early in the pandemic, even if the majority of homes have computers, some students don’t have access to technology or live in homes that aren’t conducive to helping students focus on their remote work.
That Seattle teacher is one of thousands across the country who have to balance their own concerns for student progress with their own needs to stay well. Currently, Boston’s teachers’ unions are battling against the state to continue remote learning, demanding that they first be vaccinated to keep themselves, their families and their students safe from outbreaks within schools.
Ultimately, even for the cities and districts best prepared to facilitate remote learning, there is no clear best decision to be made around remote versus in-person learning. If anything, we can hope that the shared immunity offered by the vaccine will enable communities to rally around students, no matter where they live.