Everybody's been hearing this question all summer long: Should students go back to school in the fall? Some of us have already started the school year, while others are still debating on the topic. What is the true answer to this heavy matter? Here are some of our dispositions and perceptions on the issue.
NO: Students Should Not Go Back In The Fall
Everybody knows that July-September is back-to-school season, and this year there is a lot of turmoil over what “back-to-school” should look like. By now, everybody has heard of the COVID-19 (Coronaviruses Infectious Disease, 2019) crisis, and I’m sure you all have your own opinion on if schools should open up this fall or not. Regardless of if you agree with me or not, I am here to tell you why it is not safe to reopen schools.
Children and Schools are Petri-dishes
It’s no secret that children are super-spreaders, and school buildings have been Petri-dishes far before we were in the middle of a pandemic.
Within the first 2 months of the 2019-2020 school year, schools in my general area experienced outbreaks of strep throat, head lice, two strains of the flu, and in one school, an outbreak of staph infection. So it didn’t surprise me that when my school opened up this week, half of the junior class has already tested positive, or been exposed. Schools are simply too close in contact, with too many inflection points to be safe for in-person learning at this time.
Less susceptible is not an excuse
In the argument of getting schools open, it has been brought up that children and teenagers oftentimes seem to experience less severe cases of COVID-19. Even if we subtract the students’ health from the situation of returning to schools, which we really shouldn’t, but if we did, there are still faculty and staff members who are in higher-risk groups, as well as parents/guardians who are highly susceptible to this virus. Asymptomatic spreaders are silent killers.
The mental stability of people is important, and while many people are social creatures and need social interaction. Imagine the mental toll it will take on school-age-children if they test positive and are asymptomatic, and they infect their best friend or their grandparent, and that person dies. Society will be able to go to some semblance of normal, but until we get this virus under control, school doors need to remain closed.
COVID-19 is a disease that is continuing to grow and is still being studied, meaning that no one knows exactly how to defeat it. Therefore, no one can assure that every student will be safe. For that exact reason, schools should not open. Opening schools could open the door to a major wave in new cases.
Typically, after school, a student has to eventually come into contact with their parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members. Afterwards, it is possible that they could later carry the disease and spread it to more people unknowingly. Let's not forget the fact that many of these relatives could be of older age, meaning that they could also be seriously affected by it. In some ways, online school could be beneficial to a great number of students because it could help them learn to better manage their time. It could also help them create a better balance when they are studying. Having a more diverse atmosphere is not possible in person because during class periods, students are usually forced to pay attention and put away any of their distractions.
There are many perspectives that should also be taken into consideration before opening or closing schools because every student's situations aren't the same. Here are some unbiased examples below.
WiFi and Device Availability
There are a select number of students who either do not have access to WiFi or have to share one device with the entire family, which is a huge struggle. Teachers and principals should be more aware and flexible with these circumstances because it can be very difficult for these students to complete any assigned tasks while they are stuck sharing one device with their entire family.
One possible solution for this problem would be if schools, or even the government, could offer help for these specific students so that they can have a chance to receive a good education, just like their classmates.
There are students that considered school a somewhat safe place for them due to different experiences that they might face outside the educational institution. This safe place is something that would be completely taken away from these students if there was an installation of online school.
What schools should do to help these individuals is to pay close attention to them and continue to maintain consistent communication with the students. The school should also show their disposition to offer help to these students so that they can also feel that someone cares and is there for support, whether it be emotional or “physical”.
Not an Easy Translation
Schools should not pretend that everything will be the same online. They should consider the amount of tests and homework that they are giving since the atmosphere is not equivalent to the one at school. They should use different dynamics that could both be solely effective for online school and that can significantly benefit and improve the students' learning process.
In conclusion, it is better to experience these first months of school outside, in our homes, so then we could spend time as a virtual community in COVID-19-free places in which we can all feel safe. Of course, every country has had its unique experience with COVID, but at the end of the day, the whole world is battling against the same pandemic, thus we must all work together to end it.
YES: Students Should Go Back In The Fall
Gwun Yi Wong
Although I do 100% agree with the "No" campaign, I wanted to include an argument for those who may believe that students should go back in the fall.
Free, Available Resources
Public schools around the United States, for the most part, offer free lunches and an adequate number of resources for their students. Without that stable beneficiary and provider, children with financially unstable backgrounds are at a disadvantage. They are at risk, not from COVID-19, but from malnutrition, not being able to academically catch up, and possibly, starvation.
Additionally, many schools offer internal resources ranging from therapists to nurses to help with mental health. Kids who are dealing with anxiety, ADHD, stress, or depression would not be able to seek the same type of help at home as those aids are only available at school.
There should also be a consideration for those struggling with domestic violence or familial unrest. By having to virtually attend school, those children have no choice but to be confined in their homes, facing the issues straight-on. It is highly likely that these experiences will disturb or distract the students from fully concentrating on their work and intellectually succeeding in the future. Typically, going to school in person would slightly help with the predicaments as the individuals would be physically distanced from the root of the problem for a period of time.
This is also applicable for those who live in dangerous neighborhoods where, for example, murders and shootings occur. Children from those areas would be even more at risk than if they were to physically go to school, especially since almost everybody is at home.
Not all parents are available to take care of their children, especially if their young ones have just started school. For parents who have to work fulltime, overtime, or even just for a specified amount of time in the day, having to worry about another individual in addition to working is a whole headache. It may seem like a light topic, but in the end, everything's dependent on the parents and their schedules: making lunch, going to the bathroom (younger kids), or even naptime.
Social and Emotional Development
If I were a young kindergartner who was just starting school, oblivious to the way the educational system works and void of friends, and I was told to commence online, there would be no problem for me. This, however, is not the correct method of thinking. When a child is brought into the (public) school system, the first thing that occurs is mutual bonding and friend-making. This is not exactly possible over Zoom, Meets, or any other virtual learning site. Although everybody is visible and audible, it is practically unfeasible for a child to communicate with their new classmates.
By virtually attending school, the young children aren't able to develop or get a feel for how the social atmosphere is when they're physically at school. This may impede the child's social and emotional growth when they become older. It is possible that, in the future, they will never be able to truly interact with others the way that current high schoolers are.
It is also impossible for children to learn the key morals and lessons that are needed to be a good person, such as sharing, forgiveness, and the golden rule, to name a few. Their parents may teach them these essential skills at home, but that will not always be the case.
Gym class might not sound appealing to a lot of people, but when talking about a child's well-being, it's the exact opposite. Running around the school's courtyards, jumping rope, and playing basketball help to encourage children's physical growth and endurance. In addition, it also helps to promote activeness and physical activities, such as sports and, sometimes, dancing. Some educational institutions are offering virtual gym classes, but without that vastly large gym and/or field, running, jogging, and doing push-ups is just not the same.
Whilst joining a Zoom or Meets call, most students are sedentary and stay that way for the entirety of the "school" day. Although this is a similar scenario at "physical" school, there is an allocated time when children can just let themselves go and run wherever they want during the gym period. This case is applicable for any child at any age, whether they be toddlers, tweens, or teenagers.
This may seem like an obvious topic, but not a lot of people are addressing the importance of what's academically at stake when school is declared virtual. High schoolers typically have their knowledge down. Although they are regularly exposed to new content and material, it usually isn't as important as building their educational foundation with phonics and times tables.
In terms of the younger children, it is extremely crucial that they get a proper education at the early stages of their learning career. Without that solid base, their future in school will topple like an unsteady Jenga tower. Learning via virtual sites and resources isn't enough to provide students with what they need for the forthcoming events in their life.
Even though there are two different opinions about whether students should go back in the fall, it is important to continue following proper COVID-19 protocols. If you or someone around you isn't feeling well, please make sure to get properly tested as soon as possible and stay home. Be sure to stay at least 6 feet (1.83 m) away from another individual and always be on top of washing your hands! Risking your health for parties and social gatherings isn't worth it. By maintaining proper social distancing, you will be helping both yourself and those around you.