Words

All that HOOPLA

Empowering education at the local level

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

In 2020, snow days became a thing of the past as every weekday became a snow day for most kids—even in the warmth of spring, when there was nary a flake to be found.

When schools throughout Washington state closed to in-person instruction on March 17 due to growing coronavirus concerns, they remained so for the remainder of the academic year. Since then, remote learning has transformed the educational landscape across the United States, and adaptation has been key to making sure students continue to connect with their teachers and classmates, problem-solve and grow as human beings.

As school districts in the state enter 2021 while continuing to adapt to the new normal on a county-by-county basis, a mix of in-person and online instruction has made it clear that not every student has equal access to the tools necessary to further their education.

Chris Reykdal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for Washington, said as much near the end of an opening letter that was part of a 52-page primer on “Reopening Washington Schools 2020: District Planning Guide.” He urged superintendents and school leaders to study the changes they’d enforced during the COVID-19 shutdown and consider making them permanent if they’d resulted in better practices—whether it was diving into grading or homework policies, learning standards, flexible options for students, multi-tiered systems of support, or figuring out fixes for disparate technology access.

“There has never been a bigger moment to examine our education system and improve our practices to further close opportunity gaps,” Reykdal concluded. “This is a moment to reconsider and shift past practices that have contributed to racial inequity and a lack of equitable opportunities for most of our students. I trust your first priority will be to safely open schools, but I also know you are committed to using this moment to build more transformative systems for our students.”

Although libraries weren’t specifically mentioned during Reykdal’s letter, they’ve been key to leveling the playing field during the pandemic. Even though libraries in Whatcom and Skagit counties have mostly been closed to the public during the past nine months, they’ve stayed busy behind the scenes providing curriculum support to local educators; curating resources for education and discussions related to topics of race, ethnicity and racism; lending out mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices; expanding their Wi-Fi capabilities; hosting virtual story time events; expanding their digital content; providing links that help youth better understand local tribal history; pointing the way to homeschooling resources and more.

In mid-December, Anacortes Public Library announced they’d gone a step further by securing funding from the Anacortes Public Library Foundation to expand its HOOPLA program to include all Anacortes School District library cards. What this means is that all students, teachers and staff at ASD who have a partnership library card will now have access to every digital resource APL offers.

HOOPLA provides instant access to thousands of titles, they explain, and each item is available on demand. All students and staff members now have access to as many as 10 digital downloads each month, including audiobooks, ebooks, graphic novels, music and more.

“With no wait time, every student in the school can now read the same book simultaneously if it is on HOOPLA,” APL’s Diana Farnsworth explained in a recent press release. “Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to reach out to our library staff at any time for assistance, as this is a public library resource and will be supported by public library staff.”

The library is still offering curbside service, so youth can also stock up on additional reading material to augment their learning experience if needed. As always, Farnsworth says, they recommend talking to your children about what they’re reading, whether it’s in a book with real pages to turn or one of the selections they’ve chosen on HOOPLA.

“We hope you are all staying safe this holiday season, and of course we miss seeing you at the library and in classrooms,” Farnsworth adds. “Until we can be together again, please enjoy this expanded digital service, and keep reading and learning together as we stay safe apart. Thank you to the Anacortes Public Library Foundation and its generous donors for supporting this partnership to ensure all students have equitable access to resources as we empower discovery through support of remote learning and access.”

Photo by Lisa Kuhnlein Photography

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