New York City entered and remained (and to some degree, still remains) in a strict lockdown earlier this year in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the huge COVID-19 outbreak there. Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have already released plans for the reopening of schools in the fall, which include alternate-day schooling to minimize the number of students in the city’s already-overcrowded buildings. “Make no mistake,” the district website assures parents: “New York City students will still be learning 5 days a week.” Sure, they will.
But in the struggle to transition to online learning during the 2020 Spring Semester, when lockdowns were quickly put into place and schools shuttered for months on end, many students fell behind, making it necessary to attend virtual summer school, which, unsurprisingly enough, they are also failing. Rachel Forsyth, a director at Good Shepherd Services, a nonprofit helping such students attempt to succeed, said, ““For our students who have already been at the margins of education … education is not really happening.” I’d argue that’s the case for more than just those at the “margins of education.”
Many students blame their lack of achievement in summer school courses on their lack of rapport with teachers they’ve never met before. Teachers will say the same, also citing difficulties with communication and the provided curriculum. Technology issues have further complicated the situation.
The problem with stories like these are that they convince many families that the only way to get back to “real,” “effective” learning is to bring teachers and students back to the classroom. But when COVID-19 safety protocols mandate social distancing, mask wearing, contact tracing, and regular disinfections, one wonders how much time is left for learning, especially on top of the already-existing standardized testing, “character education” disguised as indoctrination, and other nonsensical intrusions into the day.