Struggles of Remote Learning
For nearly two years now, educators have navigated the impact of Covid-19 on students and how schools operate. We can probably all remember where we were in March of 2020 when stay-at-home orders unfolded across the country and schools transitioned to remote learning. Those weeks in the spring of 2020 were dark days for students, parents and educators alike. Some students were able to manage remote learning and stayed on task with their studies. Others struggled to stay glued to a computer and either lost interest in completing schoolwork or, frankly, just could not learn or stay on task without the in-person support of teachers. None of this begins to speak of the lost learning opportunities that come from working with peers, navigating conflict or just having the development that happens when students socialize with each other or develop mentors with teachers and other school administrators.
Impact of Pandemic on Students With Disabilities
We have only just begun to measure the impact that the pandemic has had on students with disabilities. The want of socialization has only exacerbated anxiety and depression for those students who struggle with peer relationships. Students on the autism spectrum also lost opportunities to work on social development that is difficult to recover. How one reverses the emotional, social and learning impact has not been accomplished, especially since students are constantly barraged with news that another variant is coming.
Omicron Threatens to Cause Further “COVID Slide” Academic Regression
Last year, students eventually returned to the classroom. That is when the real work began as teachers and mental health professionals started to redress what’s come to be known as “COVID slide,” a term for the social and academic regression students have experienced as a result of the pandemic and remote learning. While we saw districts create back to school policies mandating masks and testing for COVID, schools were just starting to grapple with the developmental impacts on students caused by the pandemic. We interviewed mental health professionals and educators who were exhausted by the emerging emotional needs of students. There are simply not enough hours in the day to manage the regression that has occurred with students. Yet, it appeared that some progress to returning to normalcy was being made.
The recent Omicron wave of Covid-19 has threatened those efforts. Many school districts across the country are back at ground zero and returning to remote learning. And parents, teachers and school districts are now debating what is the right move: should they stay open or should they go remote?
The In Person vs. Remote Learning Debate
Chicago Public Schools, for example, will return to in-person learning Wednesday after the city’s teachers union approved a plan over COVID safety protocols, bringing an end to the standoff that canceled five days of classes. In New Jersey, after a multitude of school districts announced there would be virtual learning for the coming weeks, a federal court held an emergency hearing in connection with a class action lawsuit seeking a court order requiring schools to offer in-person learning. The New York Times just featured an article discussing the varying opinions regarding whether staying open is selfish as to health concerns for students or selfish as to the needs of students who cannot learn or receive services via remote learning.
Students Learn Better In Person
Everyone agrees that students must be our priority. It’s identifying the top priority or value that becomes problematic. Those parents that advocate for remote learning point to rising pediatric hospitalizations. On the other hand, we recognize that some parents struggle to work and supervise students who are online. In our law practice, we regularly see the toll the pandemic has taken on students, particularly those with IEP’s and 504 Plans. As we have discussed, medical and mental health professionals agree that students learn better in live classes in school. Furthermore, with prevention strategies that include vaccination, regular testing and masking, the risk of COVID spread can be managed. And if we all recognize that this pandemic is going to become endemic, we can’t take a wait and see (or wait behind a computer) until this passes approach to educating children because this may not pass in the next few years.
The Window of Opportunity to Make Up for Lost Time is Closing Fast
We understand the controversial nature of what we are advocating for. But the window of opportunity to make up for lost time and stay on course is closing fast. If we don’t work on closing the educational losses we have seen, we won’t have COVID slide, we’ll have a COVID avalanche.
If you have questions or concerns about the impact of the pandemic on your student’s education, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. Feel free to email Susan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kristina (email@example.com), or call us at 216-290-1682.