When public schools reopen and normalcy returns, California policymakers should take a hard, honest look at how online education can seamlessly transition students during times of crisis.

Too many school districts were unfortunately caught off guard — unprepared to serve students during the Coronavirus outbreak. Currently, most of the state’s student population are in limbo receiving “busy work” and eagerly waiting to transition to a distance learning curriculum. School administrators and teaching staff are working tirelessly to take on this Herculean task.

California is no stranger to natural disasters. Over the past three years, Northern California students were displaced for months after disastrous wild fires swept through Butte, Shasta, Sonoma, Lake and Napa counties. Similar school closures have been experienced in Southern California as well. Hopefully, we’ll never experience another pandemic situation, but the next natural disaster is lurking around the corner.

California already serves over ten thousand full-time online students. For parents, public virtual education gives them unprecedented freedom to access a school program that works best for their children, a freedom that used to be limited to families who could afford private schools. Academic standards for online schools are just as high as those at other high-performing public schools. Our teachers are state-certified and local education officials rigorously monitor student academic progress.

For many children, a traditional school setting simply is not a good fit. A child might find the classroom is not moving at the right pace, depending on whether they are gifted learners or need more one-on-one instruction. In some cases, a child might have medical reasons or other challenges that make it difficult for them to participate productively in a group environment. The one-on-one teaching builds positive relationships with teachers who encourage students to discover more and take on new challenges.

This pandemic has undoubtedly created hardships for students throughout the state. However, it presents us with a unique opportunity to adapt to our next crisis and empower families at the same time.

On the first day of his Administration, Governor Newsom called our citizens to action — prioritizing disaster resilience and response. It’s now time for California policymakers to answer that call and consider online education as our go-to plan. We need to embrace the benefits of public virtual education and ensure we are prepared for the future. We owe it to our kids to never put their education on pause again.