Former MCPS superintendent understands choice with all-virtual start

Like parents all over the D.C. region where schools have decided to continue virtual learning, Dr. Joshua Starr said he was disappointed to hear that two of his three children will not be back at their schools starting in August.

But unlike most parents, Starr knows what it’s like to make decisions that can turn family lives upside down. He’s a former Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent.

How did he feel when he heard that his two sons — one who will be a high school senior, and the other who is entering seventh grade — will be home for another semester?

“It was a little bit of a punch to the gut realizing that we’re definitely in this for another six months,” Starr said.

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But Starr, who is now the CEO of PDK International, a membership organization for educators, said he understands why the decision is being made.

“It was not unanticipated, but it was deflating,” he said.

Starr emphasized that for families like his, with two parents who can work from home, the news that their children can’t get back to school is disappointing, but manageable.

“My kids don’t need additional services and supports; we have everything we need. I’m not complaining,” Starr said.

But for other families, there are real concerns, and Starr said he’s confident that teachers and the school system are doing all they can to meet those needs.

“I believe in the educators in Montgomery County. I know they will do as much as they can to make sure that our kids are engaged,” he said.

But, he added, “We also know that distance learning can only get us so far.”

Starr said students deprived of being able to spend time with friends, interact with their teachers and take part in extracurricular activities that are meaningful to them will need extra social and emotional support.

He also urged parents to give themselves — and their kids — a break in trying to meet the demands of more time of remote learning.

“It’s really important to find the right balance — as I am trying to do with my kids — around the need to stay on task and stay on track academically, but also to realize that this is traumatic. For families and for kids,” Starr said.

“Families have to also give themselves some leeway and say, ‘You know what? We’re doing the best we can.'”

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