As we enter August with over 4.5 million COVID-19 cases and rising, many states and school districts are making final plans for the fall semester. As they do, they face lingering questions about what is the safest option for young students as they prepare for this school year.
Although it may be beneficial to keep children out of school because of the possible increased risk of spreading COVID-19, there are certainly many risks in having students in a remote learning environment.
One of the casualties of remote education could be social-emotional learning, which the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning defines as “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
The lack of physical interaction between educators and students could make it much more difficult for children to navigate social interactions, control their exposures, and develop basic emotional skills such as resilience. That could mean that many students will fall through developmental cracks without proper guidance and/or external resources.
COVID-19 has highlighted the health and economic disparities that lie within low income and minority communities, and unfortunately these disparities spill over into children’s ability to excel in remote environments.
In a discussion conducted by the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, panelists highlighted research indicating that children of color and those from low-income families would most likely be negatively affected by remote learning. Given the lack of external resources, increased financial stressors, and minimal access to internet services, these children are more likely to suffer academically and emotionally.
With many schools making the choice to resume remote learning for the fall, there must be academic and emotional support to correct for disparities. Many school districts are using Congressional COVID-19 aid from the CARES Act to support mental health services for students.
For example, the Los Angeles Unified School district has created mental health hotlines for both students and their families, and Maine has developed a webinar series focused on providing guidance on stress management to families. Additionally, as mentioned on one of our previous blog posts, Medicaid has also served as a source of funding to provide a variety of tele-health services for young children.
Ultimately, this upcoming semester will bring about a great level of uncertainty, whether or not the majority of students return to school. Regardless of their decisions, school districts must prioritize the health and safety of all of their students by providing mental health and academic services to ensure that no children are left behind.
Taylor Vessel is a Georgetown University student and is a communication intern with CCF.