Is Distance Learning a Good Thing?
January 26, 2022
OPINION – We Need to Stay in School
COVID has just passed its second birthday, and has left many people wondering how much longer? How much longer with the masks? When will the threat of hybrid and virtual schooling go away? As of now, Fayette County has allowed their students to go to school all five days a week with a mask mandate, but case numbers have many people puzzling how long that will last. The introduction of the highly contagious Omicron variant has convinced thousands of schools across the country to switch towards more virtual and socially distanced educating options. The main goal of switching over to virtual schooling is to improve physical health by stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but it has devastating effects on mental health. Socially distanced learning not only affects the students, but also the parents of students and teachers.
A series of studies were pulled together from resources such as PubMed and Medline on the prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress in teachers. “In total, eight studies were included in this study. The results show that teachers report levels of anxiety (17%), depression (19%), and stress (30%),” says an article by PubMed. “The results suggest that teachers at different educational levels are experiencing adverse psychological symptomatology during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that anxiety levels vary between different countries. However, more international studies are needed to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on teachers’ mental health.”
The conclusion of a study done in Baltimore on teacher’s mental health concluded that, “The prevalence of anxiety, depression, and stress was high among teachers during the pandemic, with great variation between studies. Anxiety and stress were more prevalent in the Spanish study. The results show the need for measures for the care of teachers’ mental health, especially when returning to face-to-face classes.”
A study done in a Greek high school revealed “15.3% increase in depression, 17% increase in severe depression, 25.7% increase in anxiety, and 16.7% increase in severe anxiety after just one month of lockdowns.”
Andrea Hussong, a professor and associate director of clinical psychology in the department of psychology and neuroscience, has been studying the effects of COVID-19 on mental health and noted: “Studies that followed youth from before the pandemic to sometime in the first six months of the pandemic report increases in adolescent depression and negative effects but also little change or even decreases in anxiety, irritability and self-injury. As the pandemic has worn on, however, youth show more consistent elevations in anxiety, depression and stress.”
It has been found that the abrupt changes that today’s youth have had to face in recent years have caused a decline in the mental health of young people today. “With the abrupt mass transition to an online distance-learning model in schools, students’ home and school environments merged; residual stress from the school day knows no boundaries,” Christina Munoz, a writer for the Intercultural Development Research Association. “Preliminary findings from a ground-breaking participatory action-based research conducted by San Antonio students show that more than 71% of survey respondents consider virtual remote learning as contributing more stress than traditional in-person school.”
Senior Jocelyn Wang believes that the mask mandates are good, but we should be able to stay off of the hybrid schooling model. “I think there should be a mask mandate,” says senior Jocelyn Wang. “I don’t think that we should go back on hybrid because this is the second semester of my senior year and I do not want to lose any more time with my friends than I already have.”
Wang expresses the difference in her ability to learn material from times McIntosh was on hybrid and times McIntosh was on a green schedule. “I don’t learn on hybrid,” says Wang. “Every day that I was virtual, I didn’t retain any of that information.”
According to studies conducted at universities to measure the effectiveness of distance learning, students that attended school in-person were more likely to not drop out in addition to being more likely to pass. Additionally, it has been reported that class failure rates have increased dramatically with the introduction of distance learning in various public school systems.
“Class failure rates have skyrocketed in school systems from Fairfax County, Virginia, to Greenville, South Carolina,” a USA Today article cites. “Fewer kindergarteners met early literacy targets in Washington, D.C., this fall. And math achievement has dropped nationwide, according to a report that examined scores from 4.4 million elementary and middle school students.”
Personally, I do not believe that we should go back to a hybrid model. Not only are the rapid changes affecting mental health, but it is also affecting the quality of education that students are getting. Not only is distance learning less effective, it also leads to students feeling more depressed, lonely, and anxious. For me, I learn much better when in the school building because not only does the building allow me to get immediate help and attention on topics that I am struggling with, it also allows me to interact with my friends and fellow classmates.
OPINION – We Should Go Back to Distance Learning
COVID-19 has taken an immense hit on every-day life. Businesses, schools, government buildings and large events all have new mandates and restrictions due to the spread of covid. COVID gave many Americans the option to work from home and do school virtually instead of traditional brick and mortar. A year later, many Americans are still working from home as their workplaces have allowed them to do so. This is not the same case for many schools across the country. Some universities and K-12 schools have gone virtual for the majority of January, including Emory University in Atlanta. Though, other districts have issued a mask mandate rather than going virtual, including Fayette county.
Although masks are very effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19, it is not guaranteed that everyone will comply, even with a mandate. Masks have been the subject of many feuds around the world, especially in the US. Many of those at McIntosh do not wear masks as per how the CDC says they should be worn, which certainly has not helped in stopping the spread of COVID-19. By students wearing masks under their noses or under their mouths, it will only result in more COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.
According to the CDC, “COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, and masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others.” If one wears their mask under their nose, it will not be as effective as wearing their mask over their nose because they are still able to breathe COVID-19 droplets in and out which is putting themselves and others at risk.
Going fully virtual or hybrid is not ideal for all families, especially those with younger children. Many parents/guardians are unable to be home with their children during 7-8 hour school days as they have jobs to attend to. For many of those families, hiring nannies or babysitters is not an option either. For that reason, I believe that virtual learning should be an option, because not all parents are able to stay at home with their children.
In other cases, going virtual or hybrid is ideal for some families, including my own. Some families contain members that are high risk individuals where if they caught COVID-19, they could end up in the hospital. For many families with high risk members, they have been avoiding taking any risks when it comes to COVID-19. That includes not going to restaurants, large gatherings, and traveling when COVID-19 cases are surging. Families should be able to opt out of brick and mortar learning at any point during the semester as long as COVID-19 cases are still rising.
Overall, when it comes to COVID-19, school districts cannot make everyone happy by their decisions. Allowing families to have the option to keep their child(ren) home or send them to school would be beneficial to promote a healthy and safe learning environment.