This article appeared in the May 28, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Help for schools? Ask young Americans.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Casey Merkle works with third grade students in the garden at East Somerville Community School in October 2018 in Somerville, Massachusetts. Ms. Merkle works in an AmeriCorps program called TerraCorps.
Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Motivated college students and teens are using the summer months to work on masks that measure vital signs and volunteer at food banks. But what if some of that innovation and helpfulness could also be aimed at schools?

Besides the logistics of social distancing, districts are facing financial shortfalls due to dwindling state coffers. (Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is also pressing states to share education funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act with private schools.) A recent USA Today/Ipsos poll suggests nearly 1 in 5 K-12 teachers are unlikely to return if schools reopen.

The U.S. education system could use the problem-solving skills of the country’s young people about now. What will groups like AmeriCorps (which I participated in), the government-sponsored public service organization that has historically helped in schools and communities, come up with? Efforts are already underway to expand national service programs, which could employ recent college graduates to assist with tutoring and other needs. Elsewhere, educators are already enlisting the support of students themselves. A middle school in Florida utilized a tech team during the lockdowns, with trained eighth graders helping peers and teachers navigate devices and apps. It has been satisfying work, the middle schoolers say. And it suggests possibilities for collaboration in the fall.

“[T]he students became the teachers,” Lois Seaman, a teacher at Hammocks Middle School in Miami, told The 74. “There was a real trust here. We have a lot of tools in our toolbox.”

This article appeared in the May 28, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/28 edition
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