At LT, COVID-19 positivity rates have reached a new high of 15%, as of January 2022, according to Up Metrics. The data speaks for itself. When school originally shut down in April of 2020, COVID-19 positivity rates were at 4%. Recently, there has been a debate about whether or not schools should switch to remote learning during the current surge of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron. Even Chicago Public Schools, mere miles from LT, have gone back and forth over this topic. Yet, faced with higher COVID-19 rates, politicians and school administrators are hesitant to press pause on in-person learning for a few weeks, until COVID-19 case numbers stabilize.
From April 2020 up to now, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and practicing social distancing has become a civil responsibility. These practices are more than just following COVID-19 protocol, but are also a sign of respect. For high-risk individuals and their families, these past years have been a stressful and anticipatory time. Life and decisions suddenly revolve around possible exposure to COVID-19. It can often feel frustrating when leaders refuse to take necessary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the cost of you and your family’s health. How hard could it be to put aside politics and decide to do the right thing? While I understand this is a big ask, LT is in a better position to go remote than ever before.
This year, all LT students have received Chromebooks to use for class. Unlike in April of 2020, access to technology for online classes will not be an issue for students. Furthermore, with a full school year of online experience, LT has learned how to successfully online learn by optimizing platforms such as Zoom and Canvas. Class can still be engaging and informative, regardless of the location. What truly can be distracting and detrimental to our learning environment, is having half of your class absent with COVID-19 or under quarantine order. The uncertainty and worry over exposures and contact tracing is draining to students. Teachers becoming mask monitors as well as balancing teaching in class and updating quarantined students is a lot to ask of anyone. A break from these pressures will help everyone refocus and be prepared to return stronger when cases are lower.
While some may argue that remote learning is detrimental to students’ mental health, some benefits have actually been observed over quarantine. Many students struggle with social anxiety and in-person school has been less than nurturing compared to remote. According to a SLC Health study of teens who participated in remote learning, it was reported that students had a 10% decrease in social anxiety. Online learning creates a learning environment with lowered social pressure and allows students to interact with others from the comfort of their homes. Furthermore, remote learning allows students to take more mental health breaks from class, in a less embarrassing and confrontational way. Lastly, the mental health issues presented by online learning mirror those students face in-person. Mental health problems have gone almost completely unaddressed in-person when students are tasked with completing test after test. Yet, suddenly when faced with a possible return to remote learning, students’ mental health becomes a priority to protect. It appears as though mental health only matters when it can be used as an excuse to reject a return to remote learning.
In conclusion, it would be a wise and responsible decision for LT to go remote whenever COVID-19 cases start to increase to dangerous levels. While no one wants to return to the chaos of quarantine, a few weeks remote won’t be too strenuous in comparison to its potential benefits for the community and everyone’s health.