Falling behind

Opinion writer Sean Thomas offers his perspective on the challenges K-12 students could face with the transition to online learning.

Since moving to Bryan-College Station, I have made every effort to stay in touch with my family. Throughout any given week, I may talk to my parents four times, my grandparents and siblings twice, and my aunts and uncles once in a while. These conversations cover a variety of topics, failing to ever focus on specifics – until recently.

When speaking with my family, I look forward to speaking with my nephew the most. At eight years old, he is a typically rambunctious little boy. He will ask you an earnest question in one moment, and in the next moment, say the most ridiculous and hilarious things I've ever heard anyone say. Kids, right? Their innocence remains untarnished during a time they don't completely understand.

Recently, I have attempted to focus our conversations on how well he is doing in school considering that he, like many students across the country, has transitioned to an online learning environment.

Of course, this is not a subject he is interested in; instead, he asks me how my dog is doing. As a child, he doesn't care to talk about "real problems," and as an adult, this perspective is what brings me to enjoy his conversations most.

Prodding him once more with a question about school, he responds, "I'm all caught up right now, Seanie." His response is a relief to hear, and thankfully the school year is almost over. As long as he keeps his grades up, I've promised him a visit to B-CS this summer. Right now, fortunately, he has the resources to make him successful during this transition. However, I am well aware that many other students are not so lucky.

A conversation with a Texas teacher, Heather Pace, provided details about the challenges some of her students are facing during this transition. She explained because they are Title I students, there may be an increased risk to their learning. Pace states that children "need their teachers and school more than ever," and some of her students are "struggling right now without their structures in place."

Indeed, many individuals across the country share Pace's concerns. Schools in New York City have opted to close for the remainder of the academic year – a decision likely to be followed elsewhere in other cities. Governor of Texas Greg Abbott has stated his intent to sign an executive order opening businesses at limited capacity. However, there has been little clarity as to how this will affect the education system, specifically regarding if children will return during this academic year.

Keeping schools closed has had an immense impact on various aspects of the American economy. Across periods of recessions occurring in the U.S., there has been a significant impact on the education system. The coronavirus has compromised the future of the economy. However, there is also the risk of sending children back to school too soon.

Moreover, the most unfortunate aspect of shutting schools down is not only due to the economy at all. Schools are reporting massive drops in attendance due to a lack of resources, and this is unacceptable. If anything, this shutdown should open the eyes of Americans blind to the issues circulating the education system. Not every student has the same background, and not all students have internet access at home or a computer for that matter. Some students rely on free lunches, and some depend on school as a safe place. Should the pandemic continue into the fall, there must be a sufficient system in place for the students who are getting left behind.

Unfortunately, there will be many students who suffer because of this shutdown. Most kids aren't thinking about how COVID-19 will affect them right now – all they know is that they need to "stay safe." The importance of education should not need explaining. By emphasizing the lack of resources available to students, we can begin finding solutions that place a higher value on adequate learning for all students, from this pandemic onward into the future.

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