Déjà Vu? Speculation Rises of a Return to Remote Learning
By Craig Papajohn-Shaw
Volume 2 Issue 3
January 14, 2022
Image provided by NBC News
First identified in South Africa on November 24th, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has quickly spread globally and reached Long Island in the first week of December. The state of New York has been severely affected by the new variant, despite the fact that 72% of its residents have been vaccinated. Cases have seen a 283% upward trend in the last fourteen days (as of January 3rd). The week before winter recess, confusion struck the faculty and staff as districts across Long Island were opting for remote learning in response to either staff shortages or an uptick in COVID cases. Local districts, such as the Sewanhaka Central High School District (SCHSD), went remote for select schools before and after the break due to the outbreak and staffing shortages; the neighboring H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square opted for remote learning before the break. The Valley Stream Central High School District addressed the sudden rise in cases by announcing on Tuesday, December 21st, that the district would cancel all after school meetings and activities on Wednesday, the 22nd, and Thursday, the 23rd.
As students and faculty return to in-person learning with a continued outbreak, there is a strong indication that the district remains determined to deliver in-person learning for students. Principal Dr. Small addressed the debate and her commitment in her administration to provide a safe learning environment:
“As an educator, I value the experience students receive when they learn in person. Technology use is a necessary facet that our teachers adopted flawlessly at the height of the pandemic that we deem essential in preparing our students for global society. However, a seven-hour school day provides a level of structure many of our scholars look forward to as a constant in their lives. The safety and health of our faculty/staff and scholars is our number one priority that we never want to compromise. So, we have to continue following the safety precautions in and out of school because no one wants to quarantine for ten days and miss vital classroom instruction. Hopefully, this uptick is only temporary, but we will continue to support our students' academic learning without jeopardizing their safety, health, and social and emotional needs.”
A research study conducted by the Institute of Labor Economics published in May of 2021 found that online learning negatively affected students' ability to concentrate on coursework and caused them to feel less connected to their classmates and teachers than students taking classes in person; in addition, the study found that students’ overall GPAs were lowered on average by 0.2 standard deviations. The reluctance to temporarily return to a period of online learning as Omicron surges comes with suitable reasoning due to the negative repercussions it has shown to have on adolescents. An upperclassman at North commented on the district’s current decision to opt for in-person learning:
“Personally, I’m glad that district decided to stay in-person for the moment. I feel like learning online caused many students to fall behind academically and suffer mentally because of the lack of social interaction. I think administration is doing everything they can, having frequently touched surfaces (tables and doorknobs) cleaned frequently and reminding students to wear their masks. They’re really trying, and I think now a large part of the burden lies on student to do what they need to do to be safe and take care of themselves and others.”
The district continues to observe the COVID uptick carefully, with each school monitoring student and staff cases and informing the community via email. It looks like the district will need to keep discussing the safety of students and staff members, as projections show the Omicron variant will continue to surge over the next month.