While we don’t have official numbers, estimates say some 15,00-20,000 Mississippi children are homeschooled during normal times. Currently, every child in the state is learning at home as the state deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a clear timetable to return to school, we have seen a push toward distance – or online – learning for all Mississippians. On Monday, Governor Tate Reeves issued two new executive orders, including one to implement distance learning.
“During the remainder of the school year districts immediately begin working with the Mississippi Department of Education to develop and implement distance learning or other instructional means to achieve completion of essential grade-level instruction for the 2019-2020 school year,” the order reads.
As the education future continues to develop, we will continue to see a demand for online learning, and not just for this spring. With online learning options, students literally have the world at their fingertips. Whether it’s a unique subject with hard-to-find instructors, a class they need more help with, or one that they are wishing to dive deeper into, the ability to use technology to transform education is very real. And it’s already happening. Whether you are in need of a short-term fix or long-term planning, there are dozens of free online resources, many that schools already use within the traditional brick-and-mortar realm.
While it is something that could be vitally beneficial for our future, online education is something that Mississippi leaders have been slow to support.
Virtual schools serve as a resource for many families enrolled in charter schools across the country, but they are prohibited in Mississippi’s limited charter law. Some states even have a hybrid mix of homeschool/ charter school facilities where students attend a couple of days per week while still doing most of their education at home. Mississippi has a virtual public high school, but it’s simply a couple of courses a student can take, not a full distance learning program.
And the renewal of the Education Scholarship Account program for students with special needs strips online learning from the inclusion of educational expenses families can be reimbursed for.
Colleges and universities have led in online learning, with fully online programs long available for those who either don’t want to attend a traditional school or need the flexibility to balance their work and family. Regardless, the technology and future are here. We need to move beyond the box that education currently sits in.
Because the next time the world pauses, it would be nice if we could seamlessly flow to online learning. And for those who could benefit from online learning every day of the week, it would be nice to make that available for Mississippi students.
It is time to bring the technological future to K-12 rather than continuing to fight it.