By any standard, 2020 has been a remarkably difficult year; however, school districts have been hit particularly hard by the social and health effects of COVID-19 and a variety of other issues currently facing at-risk individuals. In many ways, the importance of schools and the role they have in communities was reinforced through the pandemic. 

COVID-19 exposed many harsh realities in cities and communities across the country and revealed that for many students, schools are more than a place of learning. For many students in our country, school represents a safe place where they receive social-emotional support and access to nutritious meals.

Now is a time to reflect on the importance schools carry in our communities. Here are just a few great reasons to support our schools during this trying time and why every bit of help makes a difference. 

Teachers Are Experiencing Burnout in Record Numbers
At present, it is no secret that teaching is even more emotionally draining than ever. In addition to guiding a new generation of learners, teachers are tasked with protecting their students’ mental and physical health. This can be a massive burden to bear for even the most resilient of professionals. We must understand that our teachers need our support now more than ever.

Schools Are Experiencing Budget Shortfalls
In addition to state revenue shortfalls, developing a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan has caused significant budget concerns for school administrators across the country. To safely plan for reopening, schools had to put social distancing guidelines and online learning measures in place. Such measures aren’t cheap, as these programs’ costs will have to come from somewhere. With political infighting dominating Washington at the moment, that could be a serious problem.

Communities Are at Risk
Parents, school administrators and teachers have been placed in a very precarious position in the debate surrounding in-person vs. remote instruction. Should children forego in-person learning for the year to avoid exposure to COVID-19 on a school campus? Or, should they attend school in person, potentially risking themselves or a vulnerable family member? The answer is never black and white, No one quite knows the answer, but education leaders should be given credit for navigating a nearly impossible situation. When it comes down to it, how many of us would want to make that call?

Unfortunately, schools are often caught in the middle of political arguments as it relates to in-person vs remote instruction. Our focus should be refocused on educating children, and ensuring their health, safety and well-being remains the top priority.

Education Is at a Crossroads
While COVID vaccines should be widely available by Spring 2021, no one is quite sure what the future holds for the US school system. Even with a vaccination program in place, Americans may be dealing with the economic fallout of COVID for some time. That could mean severe budget shortfalls in needy school districts for the foreseeable future. As leaders in education work out a path forward for students and teachers, we should all be supportive and willing to help out in our communities. One thing is certain: Our educators need us now more than ever.