New K-12 Task Force Sets Initial Priorities
April 23 meeting summary


The Southern Regional Education Board’s K-12 Education Recovery Task Force convened its first meeting last week and identified initial priorities to help states address in the coming weeks and months. The task force is bringing together state and local education leaders from across the South to determine how to reopen school buildings and the best ways to serve students and support teachers.

State K-12 education chiefs, teachers, school district officials and others gathered by videoconference and split into small online discussion groups to consider the challenges in their own states at the state, district and school levels.

Guidance from the task force “will be powerful for the South and the nation,“ said James F. Lane, co-chair of the task force and the state superintendent of public instruction in Virginia.

“Hope for millions of students across the South.”

SREB President Stephen Pruitt said this work will stress equity for each student and could provide “hope for millions of students across the South.”

Task force members set these initial priorities to guide their work:

  • Safety of students, educators and staff: Guidance for schools and districts on making schools sanitary, social distancing and related issues.
  • Academic acceleration and emotional support for students: How schools can help students accelerate learning and catch up as they continue into the next grade—and how schools can provide support for students as they deal with change, isolation and possible trauma.
  • Clear communication: Frequent and transparent outreach to families and the public from schools and districts about health, safety, academics and counseling.

 Teachers want to know whether they will need to wear masks, how to practice social distancing in classrooms, buses, and hallways, said one teacher during the task force meeting. Many students in her school have limited or no broadband access at home, and often lack enough devices for children to use for schoolwork.

Another challenge: How to gauge students’ skills when they return to classrooms and accelerate their learning if they’ve missed certain skills or need other help.

Teachers and principals may also be concerned about their own health when schools open, especially if they have existing medical conditions. Students and staff members may also have emotional health needs upon their return, task force members said.

The SREB K-12 education task force will meet weekly and will post regular updates.

Higher Ed Task Force

SREB also has announced a regional Higher Education Recovery Task Force, which will begin meeting the week of May 4. State higher education officers and their appointees will collaborate to address the major issues facing 2- and 4-year colleges across the region. The higher education task force will interact with the K-12 task force, bringing together these two main sectors in education.

Check regularly for updates on the K-12 and higher education task forces and related work.