Throughout all the communication received, one thing is clear from the school district: they have the best interest of the students and families in mind.
But with the best interest for students and families in mind, the most suitable actions to take would be to reopen schools before the end of the semester.
First, as soon as the shelter-in-place lifts, everyone most likely has plans to do online school work together. At coffee shops, at the beach, or at a friend’s house. I know this because I’ve already been invited to hang out with people multiple times.
Now, let’s say I hang out with 10 friends one day. I don’t know who those 10 people have been hanging out with or who those people hung out with previously. COVID-19 might still spread just the same as if school was open.
While there is a potential liability risk to keep schools open, there are alternatives. Continuing to allow some students to partake in distance learning while those students able and willing can go to school is just one option. That way, students can receive the education they want and deserve.
Second, increased screentime is a danger that comes with the closing of schools. Staying at home makes computers, laptops, phones, and other electronics more available for students and has led to an increase in time spent on these devices.
Screen time is terrible for teenagers for many reasons. It can affect the development of brain cells, eyesight, and overall mental health. A 2018 study linked that just one hour of screen time can lower a teenager’s curiosity, self-control, and emotional stability. A similar study from Louisiana State linked screen time to depression, and a Cambridge study noted that using the internet lowered some of Great Britain’s students’ grades.
Just from the past week of distance learning, my own screen time has shot up. Apple makes users aware of their screen time statistics through a feature in the settings app. I have one friend who, after four days of distance learning, has already had their screen time go up by over 100%. Mine, though not as drastic, is significantly higher than usual.
By reopening schools, we have the opportunity to have real conversations and scheduled routines to keep our screen time lower, especially since social media is closely linked to depression, so it is crucial to allow students to see each other during the school day.
Third, students most likely will not be prepared for the next school year if classes continue to be online. When students go to school, we get real lectures for 50+ minutes and can take notes and practice concepts. With distance learning, I have already heard about so many phone calls with everyone sharing the answers and prompts to assignments. By doing so, we cannot adequately demonstrate our understanding of new concepts. In fact, most of us haven’t even learned new concepts.
We need to reopen schools so that students will be prepared for their next year of rigorous learning, then onto college education.
If schools continue to remain closed, we may not be fully prepared for the SAT or ACT, and colleges might not be as accepting. This is why it is incredibly important for schools to continue after the shelter-in-place.
I know the school district is striving to maintain the health and welfare of the community, but keeping schools closed is not promoting that.