On Wednesday morning, Axios Cities Correspondent Kim Hart discussed the impact of COVID-19 on education, including online learning with Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, closing the digital divide with Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, and school reopening with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Maggioncalda highlighted the role of online courses in how students across age and ability can still have their educational needs met.

  • On the shift to online learning before and during the crisis: "Well before COVID, the trend towards online learning had already begun. ... As schools have closed, and now there's 1.6 billion students who have had their schools closed ... they're turning to online learning."
  • How coronavirus is impacting students going to college: "There's a tremendous concern that a lot of high school seniors who otherwise might have thought about going to college might say, if campuses aren't open, maybe I'll go into the workforce."

Steyer discussed how the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing problems with education equity, noting a recent survey that found that black and Hispanic teens were more likely than white teens to say they were worried about falling behind as a result of in-person classes being canceled.

  • On trying to close the academic equity gap: "Kids themselves are aware of the significant inequalities and inequities when it comes to educational opportunity in the United States. ... They're really concerned about their family income and the potential of their parents losing their job and even having enough food on the table at night. So this is a very anxious time for millions of young people in this country."

Hutchinson highlighted how Arkansas has worked to close the digital divide in rural areas, as well as efforts to make sure students without internet access don't fall behind on schooling.

  • How Arkansas has addressed the learning gap for rural communities during the coronavirus: "We utilized our public television network, Arkansas PBS, who ... could reach the rural areas, the far-flung areas of our state, so that the student or child could be at home, receive instruction ... even if they might not have the same high-speed access to broadband."
  • On opening up schools in the fall: "I'm counting on [schools reopening]. ... We're going to have a continued challenge with coronavirus next year, but we've got to be able to work through that. ... If we have some uprising or a resurfacing of the virus, I hope to deal with that like the flu season where we can close, if necessary, for a few days."

Thank you to our partner Heartland Forward and our sponsor the Walton Family Foundation.

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