An Open-and-Shut Case for School Reopening | Liam Rosenberg
When are things going to go back to normal? As we navigate through a school year of uncertainty, doubt, and COVID-19, it has become increasingly difficult to answer that question. Even with vaccines beginning to roll out to the public, there is a strong possibility that our society will never go back to “normal”. There are economic implications, including an embattled stimulus package on the House floor that would allocate $225 billion for education. There are social implications, like the alarming uptick of inpatient mental health programs among teenagers. And, of course, there are the direct consequences of the virus itself, which has led to over 1,300 deaths in San Diego County alone. Given the controversy that is presently surrounding the SDUHSD reopening plan, one could assume that it just isn’t worth it to fight for such a cause — the risks are too high and the benefits too few. But this is where they would be wrong.
As a member of the CCA community, I too often have seen a defeatist attitude among students regarding the reopening plan. Many ardent supporters of virtual learning argue what has previously been said: it doesn’t assist enough individuals, it is unsafe, etc. However, they, unlike me, have not had the opportunity to partake in the ongoing school-organized study group that was afforded to myself and several other individuals. In many ways, we were in an experiment from August to now. Those learning on Google Meet from home were the control, and the small number of students who had been allowed back on campus were the treatment group.
I have never seen such a radical difference in my work ethic and productivity than when I became a part of the study group. Sleeping through class, connectivity issues, and a general disregard for school were all commonplace in the time before this study group was available to me. But returning to campus and having access to a support group, including the various teachers, guidance counselors, and vice principals at my disposal, was a blessing in disguise. Although the most the school can do is recreate a classroom setting in the learning commons even as we attend classes on Google Meet, it does have some semblance of normalcy during a time that is simply the opposite. As my grades have improved so has my mental health — And speaking on behalf of my parents, familial stress levels decreased.
What I experienced during this time was not unique. In fact, according to several different studies conducted between 2009 and 2016 from independent American and Australian universities, roughly half of all students perform worse in online classes than they would in face-to-face learning. This is reflected across socioeconomic classes, with lower-income students and students with attention disorders failing to achieve previously-met standards. So, those opposed to the reopening of school, tell me this: should we hemorrhage half of CCA students, including those economically disadvantaged or flat-out new to the school, for the sake of the unknown?
*Disclaimer: Article written before SDUHSD’s December 2020 decision to keep schools closed. However, many of the opinions expressed in this article have still remained unchanged.