COVID-19 and Education
Updated: Jun 25, 2022
By Vikrant Sabharwal
Over the past two years, students in America have missed more time in the classroom than almost any other G20 nation.
Many school closures began in early 2020 and dragged on till the summer of 2021. Schools were closed in the US for three times longer than schools in Spain and four times longer than schools in France, for example. Conversely to the American average, BISB was quick, by opening at the very beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
The impact of removing students from the classroom has been immense. Remote learning has harmed students' learning, mental health, and physical safety. Students have felt isolation and loneliness from not being able to interact with their peers in person. Academically, being remote has made it more difficult for students to grasp the content of the class and ask teachers for help when confused. This is something my peers and I have especially experienced whenever BISB went online.
For me, these negative impacts of remote learning pushed me from Brookline High School to BISB after my sophomore year of high school in the summer of 2020, when Brookline announced they would be continuing remote learning. Numerous other students like me have also left public schools for private schools, which has caused public school enrollment in the US to plummet, and it is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels. An analysis of data from 33 states obtained by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press shows that public K-12 enrollment this fall has dropped across those states by more than 500,000 students, or a drop of 3%, since the same time before the Pandemic in early 2020. This decline in enrollment will further devastate the impacts of COVID-19 on public schools, by leading to dire consequences on school budgets, which are dependent on headcounts.
For some time after the summer of 2021, many felt that the COVID situation was improving, confident that schools would be able to remain securely open. However, this confidence was dashed with the emergence of the Omicron variant. School closures sparked up again after the new variant surged over the December holiday break. Of the 98,755 K-12 public schools in the US, almost 5,000 schools were shut for all or part of January, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
With public schools, there have been other factors outside of COVID-19 cases that have been causing school closures and further affecting the learning of students. There has been significant strike action by teachers, as in Chicago for example, teachers refused to turn up to school between January 5th and January 15th. Teachers' unions claimed that their work conditions were unsafe, and also expressed general unpleasantness with the provisions of their employment. Though their safety concerns are valid, these same concerns are not shared by teachers in England even though they have a higher infection rate and lower vaccination rate. England was able to have a seamless return to in-person school after the holiday break, significantly aided by the compliance of teachers.
To deal with the continuing impacts of COVID-19 and teacher dissatisfaction, it is integral that schools find more effective ways of covering for quarantined or absent teachers, to mitigate any detrimental effects on the learning of students. Strategies for this include bringing administrative staff into classrooms or temporarily inviting teachers back from retirement.
Situation at BISB
BISB has been doing a solid job of maintaining a high standard of teaching and learning since they reopened at the start of last school year. The school has increased their use of cover teachers to make sure that any absent teachers have temporary replacements, at least for the younger grades. With the pool testing program, they have also been effective at quarantining only select groups of students, to minimize the number of students who have to miss school.
Thankfully, BISB has no plans for school closure amid the rising COVID-19 cases, barring any unexpected significant changes. The situation for BISB looks fairly promising with a much higher portion of the student body now getting vaccinated amid the release of the vaccine for children under 12 years old and the release of the booster for students 12 years and older. However, with the way that wild developments in the Pandemic have occurred seemingly out of nowhere, it is important to remain ready for all possible outcomes. Still, the school community can rest assured that BISB is doing everything in its power, to keep its students in the classroom.