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Education commissioner: 'we’re all going to emerge from this way better than ever before'

Pender Makin says Maine is ahead of most states in what it can offer through remote learning, but we need to get internet connectivity to all of our students.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A lot of parents, students, and probably teachers too, are disappointed by the recommendation that Maine schools continue remote learning for the rest of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Education commissioner Pender Makin says it is clear from talking with colleagues around the country who are deeper into the coronavirus crisis than Maine is, that an all-clear to return to the classroom isn't likely anytime soon.

But Makin also says, despite the challenges, some good will likely come out of this.

Commissioner Makin says emergency remote and distance learning is working well.

"I would say that it speaks very highly of our educators and our school and district leaders who have turned on a dime from what they have done for years and years to suddenly reinvent the entire system," Makin said.

But Makin acknowledges that what's available to students across the state can be inconsistent, saying there have always been inequities in our school systems.

RELATED: Maine education commissioner recommends schools keep remote learning for remainder of school year amid coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

"This emergency has exacerbated those inequities, and has been shining quite a bright light on what we would call the digital divide," Makin says. "We were concerned about that before, but now it’s turning into almost a humanitarian crisis of need. we need to get connectivity to all of our students."

Makin admits she is concerned that some students may not be learning all they should right now. But she says their brains are wired for learning, and you can't stop that. 

Makin says, "They are learning how their community, their family, their schools, their state, operate under a dire emergency that is unprecedented."

She also believes students continue to develop important skills and ways of thinking through curiosity, problem-solving and critical thinking.

And she offers another note of optimism.

"It's not easy, but at some point I think we’re all going to emerge from this way better than ever before. Every time discomfort pushes us beyond our limits and causes us to have to change and alter what we’re doing, there is a gift in that, and we will be stronger and more capable."

But the commissioner adds that, "people are almost paralyzed to the point of inaction sometimes when you can’t do it all, and you can’t do it perfectly. Educators want to do everything very well."

Makin hopes everyone will cut themselves some slack.

"Please be kind and gentle with yourselves, give yourselves a break to recognize you are operating under an emergency situation. That goes for the parents, that goes for the educators, and for the kids."

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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