Rachel Tripathy: Learning From The Pandemic

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Rachel Tripathy with her husband and child.

Schools are closed for virtually everyone, but the effects are not borne equally. Rachel Tripathy has this Perspective, recorded from her home, on the lessons we might learn.

The novel Coronavirus is all I hear about these days, and for good reason – it is affecting nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and we are unsure about the road ahead. Amidst all the uncertainty and anxiety, I have been thinking about what good may come from this experience.

The spread of novel Coronavirus has highlighted far-reaching social and economic inequities. As a social science researcher focused on educational equity, naturally I think about schools and families. Many schools in California have suspended classes though early April, at least. For some families, this may mean parents will work from home, students will complete assignments on their laptops outside of school, and – on the bright side – families can spend a little more time together.

But for other families, school closures mean grim choices, like choosing between foregoing income to stay at home with their children, or leaving children at home unsupervised. These families are less likely to have the technology required for remote learning, meaning that the already worrying achievement gap is likely to widen in the near-term. Simply put, school closures will exponentially hurt these families more than their well-off counterparts.

So what good could come from this? I think we should view this as an opportunity to identify policies that mitigate risks for these families in the future. Undoubtedly, we will face more epidemics, natural disasters, and other events that will disrupt the normal order of things. We have the ability as a collective to limit the inequitable consequences of these events. Whether we want to explore alternative types of emergency paid leave, funding for better school technology, basic income options, or other creative solutions – that is up to us. The important thing is that we use this national health crisis to make our communities stronger and more resilient in a way that benefits everyone.


With a Perspective, I’m Rachel Tripathy.

Rachel Tripathy is a social science researcher in the Bay Area who works with districts and other agencies on education issues.