Providing distance learning is much harder than providing an education in person, says Mary Haynes-Smith, principal of Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in New Orleans.

Bethune is a school that runs on personal relationships and hugging, and building a culture of resiliency is much more difficult when done through computers, she said. “This is so much of a harder task to perform.”

Even so, she doesn’t understand why schools would re-open in the fall with the idea of closing when a second wave of COVID-19 hits.

“I don’t know how much sense that makes,” she said. “I would prefer to let schools stay closed until there’s a vaccine.” It has been difficult enough finding teachers in the past, she said. “With the pandemic, a lot of people are not going to want to be teachers if they don’t find a safe way to bring us back into the buildings.”

Which means that the task ahead means that teachers have to “perfect the virtual learning.”

In this episode of ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times, Mary Haynes-Smith, together with her assistant principals, Amanda Broussard and Crystal LaFrance, talk about the very real challenges of shutting school on a moment’s notice and how they think about how to re-open in the fall, especially given the fact that many of their students, most of whom live in low-income homes, don’t have access to computers and internet.