“The emergency remote learning that took place as a result of COVID-19 school closures brought to light disparities in our school communities that made student learning difficult in the pandemic environment,” said South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman in a statement made on July 29, 2020.

Her statement is a very succinct summation of the massive challenges that the COVID-19 crisis and its closures suddenly thrust into an educational system utterly unprepared for any such disruption. With nationwide school closures, the nation has finally been able to see what many education activists have been warning about for decades: schools as they were are a tenuous institution, inflexible and unable to adapt to change, variable needs, or variable resources.

South Carolina will be receiving $15 million from the CARES Act, via the U.S. Department of Education’s Rethink K-12 Education Models grant program, to help undo the damage that inflexibility has done.

“The Rethink K12 grant will allow our state to address and overcome these challenges not only in the upcoming school year but also in the long term,” Spearman said. “I am excited about the new doors that will be opened for our students, parents, and educators as a result of this grant and am [appreciative] of the partnerships that made it possible.”

The Rethink K-12 Education Models money, which falls far short of what is actually needed but is a good starting point, will be used to increase the reach of remote learning by providing internet or data access to students and teachers who lack it, identify gaps in available resources and seek out solutions, hire more experienced teachers, and improve communications between educators and families. This last is possibly the most important step. Teachers across the country are reporting that as many as 10 percent of their students have vanished without class to come to every day, and most of that appears to be linked to lack of family support for their education at home.

It is worth noting that the Rethink K-12 grant, which equals exactly $15,049,608, would mean approximately $12,146 per school, $313 per teacher, or $29.45 per student.

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