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Distance learning hard for vocational classes

Many school districts and individual teachers have contingency plans for classes to be interrupted for a few days, but we doubt more than a handful had strategies for the current situation, in which the last couple of months of school were disrupted for millions of students.

Many educators have handled the situation remarkably well. Unfortunately, there also are reasons to believe it has not worked out well for many children. Often that is because parents have not been able to require their children to pursue schoolwork while at home.

No realistic substitute for classroom teaching exists, whether in a home-school setting or a public school. That is especially true for career classes intended to prepare students for jobs right out of high school.

Even there, creative educators have found ways to help. Auto mechanics courses can shift from the school shop to the home garage. Agriculture classes have proceeded with plants grown at home.

At-home vocational education has obvious limits, however. Its importance means that finding better ways to provide it during long school closures should be a priority for both educators and technology developers.

Clearly, too, the process of reopening schools needs to take career education needs into account. Getting vocational students back into their hands-on classrooms may be more important than putting most other categories of pupils back in seats.

COVID-19 has been an enormous challenge for educators, students and parents. Examining our response to it and improving our techniques for the next time — and there will be one — is imperative.

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