New York will work alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine education” in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.
Though the coronavirus pandemic is a “devastating and costly moment in history,” Cuomo said, there are lessons to be learned and opportunities for betterment across many sectors.
New York should “take this experience and really learn how we can do differently and better with our education system in terms of technology and virtual education,” Cuomo said. “It’s not about just reopening schools. When we reopen schools, let’s open a better school and let’s open a smarter education system.”
The state’s 4.2 million students have been absent from their classrooms and learning remotely since March 18—when schools and colleges shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic—and are set to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Cuomo announced last Friday that schools statewide would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, at least.
The state’s technology-focused approach to developing a new education “blueprint” includes investigating:
- Using technology to provide more opportunities to students regardless of their location, including immersive cloud virtual classrooms to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments
- Providing shared education among schools and colleges using technology
- Reducing educational inequality using technology
- Meeting the needs of students with disabilities using technology
But a potential pivot to a more technology-based education system, as Cuomo suggested, would not be able to replace a traditional classroom environment, according to Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, a state teachers union.
“Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students that is built in the classroom and is a critical part of the teaching and learning process,” he said in a statement. That “is why we’ve seen educators work so hard during this pandemic to maintain those connections through video chats, phone calls and socially distant in-person meetings.”
Homebound students greet teachers from their elementary school in Islip, New York, as the teachers drive by during a “Wave Parade” May 5.
Reimagined education, Pallotta said, should begin with “addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state.”
“Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs,” he said, adding that educators should be involved in discussions about improving the system.
Though ordinarily focused on a diverse scope of topics, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pivoted almost exclusively to addressing the pandemic and has committed hundreds of millions of dollars in capital to the efforts.
The foundation, headed by the Microsoft MSFT, +1.07% co-founder, has an extensive repertoire in education both domestically and world-wide. They pledge to expand opportunity for all students, particularly for students in low-income communities and students of color, and to ensure that all students receive a K-12 education that equips them to succeed in a career or higher education path.
The philanthropic organization said in an email statement that they have “committed to work with New York state on its efforts to ensure equitable access to education for its students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” noting that further details would be provided as they become available.
Other New York coronavirus developments Tuesday:
Nursing Homes: New statistics released by the state include another 1,600 presumed coronavirus deaths in nursing homes. As of May 3, 4,813 people had died at nursing homes and adult care facilities in the state as a result of confirmed or presumed coronavirus.