Should schools remain open after Winter Break?
By Shinedip Kundlas
Volume 1 Issue 3
December 16, 2020
Image provided by Wall Street Journal
As coronavirus cases began to rise in NY, the challenge to keep schools open is getting more difficult and more complicated. Long Island school officials and Nassau County leaders said that they will do everything they can to keep schools open, even as many of the county’s infection rates surpass the 3% seven-day threshold which had closed schools in NYC.
Many students, teachers, and parents have different opinions on whether or not school buildings should remain open after winter break. Experts suggest schools that have been open for in-person instruction can stay open even in the face of substantial community spread because they have offered strong safety measures, and there has been a political desire for it. I think that schools should close last, especially the elementary schools. When the fall semester came to an end, final assessments and projects had piled up making it hard for some students to even digest the amount of work they had due. And many secondary students have failed their classes this past quarter. School districts from coast to coast have reported the number of students failing classes has soared by as many as two or three times - with English Language Learners, disadvantaged students, and students with special needs facing the most distress.
Many educators have noticed some factors that play into problems with remote instruction; internet access may be inadequate or unreliable, making it very difficult for students to complete and upload assignments. Some remote students skip assignments - or class meetings entirely. Teachers who do not get to see their students in person have a small number of ways to pick up on who is falling behind, especially with many not maintaining communication with their teachers. A rising number of health professionals have urged opening more elementary schools because younger children appear less susceptible to transmitting the virus than experts had worried about and because younger students have a hard time learning online and independently. It should be noted how students sit behind their laptops for 8 hours a day sometimes even more, when it is time for online school. Then students have assignments due the night of, which students will spend so much time after class on. Finishing assignments, homework, projects, labs, and missed classwork, students rarely get to go outside or even spend time with family, not to mention the fact that many students need to spend extra hours studying the material covered that day. Whereas hybrid students do spend time on laptops at school, in my opinion, in-person learning makes it much easier to learn and keep on top of assignments. There are fewer distractions, less need for the internet, and students feel free to ask questions.
While school leaders and officials make the decisions, it is so important to keep students’ and teachers’ health in mind. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, we should take proper precautions to keep our students and teachers safe, but also productive. Closing schools when it is needed, staying home when being notified of close contact with a person who has COVID-19, and wearing masks are all things we can do while still maintaining in-person school. American officials have failed so many times in this pandemic, and the students aren’t at fault. As we try and fix this mess, let’s try to put their needs first.