Learning to Cope

How COVID-19 is Affecting Education

Photo: Deanna Gerde

As COVID-19 impacted the 2020-2021 school year, parents found themselves with multiple concerns about the long-term effects the changes and disruptions would have on their children and wondered whether virtual or in-person learning would be best for their children. Many school districts offered parents the choice to enroll their students in virtual school, in-person classes, or a hybrid option that combined the two.

A Pew Research survey of parents in the United States indicated that 90% of parents whose children received in-person instruction were satisfied with the way schools were handling education during the pandemic, while 76% of parents whose children received online learning were satisfied.

However, both groups of parents expressed concerns about their children’s academic and emotional well-being.

Parents worried about several aspects of pandemic-affected learning environments. More than half were concerned that their children’s emotional health would be harmed by the lack of opportunities to freely interact with other children. 63% of parents surveyed by Pew were worried about the amount of time their children were spending in front of a screen, and 65% were worried their children would fall behind academically.

A classroom with protective desk shields. Photo credit: Deanna Gerde

There could be valid reasons for these concerns.

Deanna Gerde is an assistant principal at a 9th grade campus in North Texas.  She said the affects of COVID are both emotional and academic and notes that there are more virtual students struggling than in-person students

She states that roughly 55% of students at her campus opted for virtual school, and roughly 20% of those students have failing grades. The State of Texas recently changed regulations to allow school districts to compel virtual students who are failing to attend in-person classes.

“There are students who aren’t doing well in virtual school, but if you make them come to school in person, they have a real fear of being exposed,” said Gerde.

Eric Nark, a parent of a freshman in high school said his school district has a hybrid schedule that combined virtual and in-person classes.  Although he is worried about teenaged students having enough maturity to do well in online classes unsupervised, he sees a benefit to virtual school because it prepares them for future distance learning.

“I think it’s better for them to adjust to it now,” said Nark. “A lot of colleges have online classes. When they get to college, they will need to have the maturity to take the initiative and get their work done independently.”

While Nark thinks the school is providing a safe and academically enriching environment for the students, he said there are some things that could be done better.

“I feel like they should have prepared better for the teachers and the staff to return to school.  They could have made it safer for them,” said Nark.

Both Gerde and Nark agree that new COVID infections are not a result of in-person classes.

“The spread isn’t coming from inside the school,” Gerde said. “Kids and families get together outside of school and it spreads.  We had a major increase in positive cases after Thanksgiving.”

“Kids gather outside of school unless parents enforce the rules,” said Nark.  “That’s where they are spreading COVID.”

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