Opinion: Children are Returning to In-Person Schooling Too Soon

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Gabriel Graham

As the weather gets cooler in the Northern Hemisphere, the United States has seen a rapid acceleration in new COVID 19 cases with more than 40 reporting an increase in infections and deaths. With the increased susceptibility not just to COVID but to other ailments like the flu or common cold, now seems like the time for online learning to shine, yet schools not just locally but nationwide are pushing for kids to return to in-person school.  

Though the return to in-person schooling for students attending CCHS is optional, many students have chosen to return in-person due to a variety of reasons. “I feel like I just learn better when I’m in the same room as my teacher,” one Junior said, “I have a hard time focusing at home so going to school where learning is the only focus is really helpful.”   

Still, the advantages of in-person schooling versus online schooling are not convincing; students who go to school do the same work as students who stay home. Hybridized schooling means that all students still join a video call while at school and still need to have a computer with them to access their work. In-person students likely don’t get an academic advantage over the virtual students so it may not be worth it.   

These doubts come at a time when Illinois is setting records for new COVID cases; 6,363 new diagnoses just yesterday. However, students don’t seem to be worried about the spike in cases, “I think with the school mask mandates and measures in case of an outbreak that I’ll be ok,” one student said.   

Credit: Heather Moran
Heather Moran

While adolescents are less likely to die or face serious symptoms, one has to wonder about the people they live with. Maybe an active 17-year-old will be asymptomatic, if they live with smokers, diabetics, or elderly family members, the same may not be true. The risk to one’s self or one’s family surely must outweigh the reward of going back to school. However, it may be true that the students returning to school have already considered this and do not think it is a risk.   

It does not seem necessary to push students toward returning to in-person schooling at a time like this. Not only is it cold and flu season but the US and Illinois as a whole are seeing a dramatic spike in COVID cases that seems unlikely to subside until 2021 at the earliest. Instead, schools should focus on improving online schooling, so all students have a chance to succeed in times like these. Schooling is likely to have a virtual option for some time yet. One student described the current state of online schooling as a “Hodge-podge of different programs, meetings, classes, and approaches.” If the school administration released guidelines to teachers about which programs to host their class on and how they should conduct meetings, it would likely go more smoothly.   

Regardless, it is unlikely the Carbondale School District is planning on ending in-person schooling anytime soon. Maybe they are planning on pushing through the worst of COVID with students in school or maybe they are not expecting any large COVID problems in the near future. It is hard to be sure.