What Policies Can Help Students Affected by COVID-19?

We all know that COVID-19 has had an impact on student learning over the last few months. Almost overnight, we became a nation of homeschoolers. Unfortunately, with little to no preparation for how to teach children at home, many parents and teachers are struggling to ensure that students don’t lose months of their education.

Education leaders are also struggling—to determine how best to serve students during this time. We don’t yet know what the fall will hold, but it’s clear that new policies are needed to help students affected by COVID-19. Every age group, from preschoolers to college students, have experienced disruptions, and it’s important to start rolling out solutions to help reduce the negative impact of the pandemic on education.

So what policies might be able to help? Let’s take a look.

Mental Health Policies Can Have a Huge Impact

The mental health needs of students are often ignored until a crisis occurs. Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses keep kids from reaching their potential even when they are attending school on a daily basis. As students try to learn at home, isolated from their peers, mental health concerns are even more likely to occur. During the pandemic, students have been cut off from their normal support system and need resources they can access outside of school grounds.

We need solid policies that support students who struggle with mental illness. While no one likes to think that their child or teen is experiencing an issue like depression, the truth is that not acknowledging mental illnesses in children can lead to poor academic performance, social issues, and even self-harm.

School counseling is a good start, but caseloads are notoriously large for mental health professionals in schools, meaning that many children do not get the individual support they need. Increased funding for mental health resources could make a huge difference in student learning and quality of life, especially in areas where many families live in poverty.

The CARES Act & Emergency Financial Aid

Federal funding has helped to support higher education via the CARES Act during the COVID-19 pandemic, but without additional funding and emergency financial aid, many institutions and students will suffer. Some campuses will delay opening, while others may close altogether. Unfortunately, the most vulnerable students are likely to experience the most fallout and will need the most aid money as they must secure housing and figure out how to continue attending college.

Although the panic over funding higher education is coming into the spotlight, it’s clear the nation’s system had reached a tipping point years ago. It’s not enough to simply funnel more money into the system; we need to consider policies that will make colleges and universities more sustainable and affordable for students.

We Also Need to Prioritize Having Quality Policies in Place for Remote Students with Disabilities

When children stay home from school, the kids who already have the deck stacked against them tend to suffer the most. Students with disabilities need a strong support network, whether they’re in the classroom or learning remotely. Right now, many students do not have access to the resources they need to thrive.

There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to education right now, but we need to prioritize the students who are the most vulnerable to missing out on learning during the pandemic. Policies that ensure equity and remote support for students with disabilities would help to ensure that all children have equal access to education now and in the future.

Why We Need Education Leaders Now More than Ever

Education systems only thrive when leadership steps up and works hard to make meaningful changes that serve students’ interests. A school district’s ability to provide a quality, equitable education for all students rests largely in the hands of district and state leadership. This pandemic has revealed both strengths and weaknesses in states’ educational leadership, but one thing is clear: we need inspiring and dedicated leaders more than ever.

People who want to make a difference in students’ lives and help education systems adapt to the needs of a global world might want to consider pursuing a career in educational leadership and getting a Master’s in Education Policy.

Change doesn’t happen on its own. Only those who step up can make these crucial changes and help students. COVID-19 may have turned the spotlight on the unmet needs of today’s students and the policy failures that prevent some underserved students from receiving the education they deserve, but these issues have persisted for a long time. Now, we have the opportunity to change things.