School is best for kids — unless it’s unrecognizable and inconsistent

Aug 11, 2020, 2:00 PM
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)...
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Yesterday, about a thousand parents, students and teachers, known as “Green For Ed,” held a rally in front of the Arizona State Capitol. They were rallying for schools to reopen in Arizona for in-person learning.

Just like them, I’m seeing the negative effects that not being in school is having on my kids so, just like the Green For Ed folks, I want in-person school to resume.

But is the in-person school we are going to get really going to be much of we want? Or, more importantly, what our kids need?


In many ways it won’t be any better than online learning — and it could prove to be more harmful emotionally for some kids.

Schools will want to limit touch points, so our kids will still be staring at a screen, completing assignments on an electronic device. And to limit the risk associated with changing classrooms, many teachers will teach via a screen… located in a classroom.

But they’ll still see their friends, right? Sure, but there will be practically no socialization at six-feet-apart school. They won’t be allowed to play together, touch each others stuff (that they brought to show their friends) or have lunch together.

And kids won’t be happy about wearing a mask for six hours a day, either. And may even cry when their teachers aren’t nearly as sweet about explaining how they need to follow the rules — because getting kids to follow these rules will be seen as a matter of life and death.

There’s also a good chance kids will be taught by someone who’s unqualified. Arizona had a pre-coronavirus teacher shortage. That shortage will be exacerbated by teachers who will choose to retire rather than risk going back to class. And when a teacher who did come back to class comes down with COVID, a ton of non-sick teachers may call in sick — some permanently.

Then what do you do? Deputize the janitorial staff?

How long will in-person school last before getting closed for a deep-cleaning, a staff quarantine — or a complete re-staffing?

I don’t need a child psychology degree to tell you what all this opening and closing (and the explanations as to why) will do to kids. Many will be frustrated, confused and/or scared.

Maybe, for the time being, online, at-home school is a better choice than unrecognizable, inconsistent, in-person school because the latter may provide almost none of what we want for our kids — and create more of what we don’t: a whole new set of emotional issues.

Jim Sharpe

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School is best for kids — unless it’s unrecognizable and inconsistent