The path to educational normalcy begins….sort of

Even though students are returning to K-12 campuses, either in hybrid models, toggling between in person attendance on campuses and virtual school, or a full five day a week schedule, the social dynamic amongst students as well as the learning process, is shifting

New social divisions amongst students are forming, as some students, especially secondary school students, are discomforted confronting peers about their lack of mask-wearing or coming to school with COVID-like symptoms. Further social divergence can occur, when a student is diagnosed with COVID, as some are pressured to not name friends who have been exposed but don’t want to quarantine, thus possibly risking the health of others at school. 

Furthermore, students, habituated to maintaining a social distance of six feet from others, may initially struggle readjusting to in person school, sporadically worrying about illness, especially given Governor Newsom’s recent adoption of CDC recommendations to space desks three feet apart, and distancing will likely be non-existent in crowded hallways during high school passing periods. 

On the learning front, a student’s ability to concentrate during classes may be further compromised as they readjust their sleep schedules to pre-COVID conditions, likely reducing their total sleep, as well being able to take breaks or even naps during the day. So simply regathering everyone in the same room, students may not initially increase their comprehension, with anyone’s guess as to how long this adjustment period will last. 

Furthermore, in Los Angeles Unified School District, high school students will be confined to a single room, where in person interactions focused on social and emotional learning, while all academic instruction will still be delivered virtually. Thus, the personal connection between teacher and student, fundamental to arguments for reconvening students on campuses, will still be lacking, thus further impacting an already strained learning process. 

Additionally, given the current substitute teacher shortages in many districts, some administrators encourage teachers to stay six feet distanced from students to reduce potential exposure. With such separations, teachers may reduce their effectiveness to create understanding during one on one conversations with students. Thus, students may need to supplement lessons with tutors or continue using alternative resources to compensate. 

Teachers may be also assuming additional responsibilities to monitor the health of students, as school nurses are already in short supply in California at a ratio of one nurse for every 2400 students, diluting teachers’ primary role in helping students learn, further impelling students to seek additional assistance outside school in order to learn. 

As COVID-19 variants emerge and diagnosed cases are currently rising nationally, some states like Michigan where spikes in COVID cases followed school reopenings last month, March 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitman has once again reversed guidance from January 2021, recommending schools reclose campuses. 

Many students, already frustrated about having few choices over the toggling back and forth between in person, hybrid and virtual learning, seeking continuity in their school days, may become even more dismayed, further affecting their morale and learning process, if once back at school full time they are again asked to leave school and return to virtual learning

Lastly, University of Washington epidemiologists forecast that coronavirus may likely become an endemic virus requiring yearly vaccinations, possibly causing fundamental changes in educational systems to reduce large gatherings during winter months. Thus, flexibility and a willingness to innovate will be essential for all students and families, to mitigate the damage done, but yet to be quantified or qualified.

For more information about how Creative Marbles Consultancy can help students and parents during the transition to new educational modes of learning, contact us at Creative Marbles Consultancy

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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