Teachers, parents, and epidemiologists continue to argue about this topic.
In the United States, the decision on the form of education in the new academic year is made at the state level. So, in Maryland, public schools will continue distance learning until January. Private – can open if conditions in their particular educational institution allow it.
A fourth grade teacher at Maryland’s Maral elementary school, like 59,000 state teachers in the state, is preparing to meet with students online. Maryland schools won’t open until at least January. However, according to her, unlike spring, when suddenly everyone was forced to adapt to new conditions, this time the schools were prepared.
«We know what disciplines we will teach, we now know well the platform for online classes. Students, parents – everyone knows how to use Zoom. We are also very fortunate that our district provides all students with a custom Chromebook for class. And if they don’t have Wi-Fi – a device for wireless Internet access», – says the teacher.
Free meals will continue to be provided in schools attended by children from low-income families. It is in such an educational institution that Maral has been teaching for the fourth year. She, like thousands of Maryland teachers, believes that given the situation in the state, where more than five hundred people are hospitalized, distance learning is the safest choice for both students and teachers..
«We don’t like distance learning, but we need to think about our health and safety» – emphasizes Maral. According to her, teachers are concerned about both the health of older colleagues and students.. «I think that with any decision, you will not please everyone», – adds the teacher.
The decision not to open the doors of state educational institutions in the fall was made by the school council. However, not all parents are happy – especially those who work in vital areas and cannot work remotely. A resident of Maryland, Alfiya Khusnutdinova, was forced to remain unemployed in order to take care of her three children. Her spouse works in a vital field.
«There are parents who are afraid [of the coronavirus]. Keep them at home, just like people at risk. And there are parents who find themselves in a desperate situation. They need to work and they have no one to leave the child with. We are talking, for example, about doctors, nurses, cashiers in stores. Such people should have a choice. Private schools are opening – and that private schools are not touched by the virus?!» – says Khusnutdinova. She calls the decision of the authorities regarding the form of education in the new academic year politically motivated..
Gov. Larry Hogan earlier this week stripped local officials of the authority to bar schools from opening their doors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. His decree overturned Montgomery County’s decision to close private schools along with public ones..
Epidemiologists urge policymakers to make decisions based on scientific evidence and the situation in their particular state.
«The question is not whether we can open our schools, but whether we can keep them open and safe ?! Here’s what we should be discussing now» – highlights University of Washington epidemiologist Ali Mokdad (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the University of Washington).
«Unfortunately, in many regions of the United States, this is not taken seriously, scientific data is not studied. Even if schools open, the size of classrooms cannot be the same, not every student can return to the building. We must be very careful, otherwise the school will spread the virus throughout the area. We have seen fatal diseases in children. And yes, children can spread the coronavirus. Fortunately, deaths from the virus are lower among children and young people.».
The family of Veronica Smolenova moved from Maryland to the neighboring state of Virginia. She hoped that schools would still open here. Virginia is still considering giving families a choice between distance learning, traditional learning, or hybrid learning. The mother of a 10-year-old girl recently learned that schools in Fairfax County, where they moved, have opted for online education..
«For me it is a disaster that my child will sit at the computer for half a day at the screen. To spoil the eyes, posture. It is a sin in half to understand what they want from her. I believe that it is completely safe for children to go to school. If the child is healthy, then he will be able to overcome this virus, even if he gets infected.», – says Smolenova. She plans to send her child to Russia so that she can study full-time.
However, parents who fear the consequences of the virus on children’s health support the schools’ decision to distance education..
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«I would rather leave the child at home. Yes, the mortality rate is low, but it is not known what consequences the virus leads to in people who have not been hospitalized.», – says Elena Bobkova, a resident of Chesterfield County in Virginia, whose son will study online for the entire school year.
At the same time, parents whose children study in private schools are already forced to decide whether to send their children to an educational institution. With all the safety measures taken in these schools, doubts still remain.
«On the one hand, we are very happy that the school opens in person, because keeping children locked up for so many months is very difficult and not useful for the children themselves. On the other hand, of course, we are worried that we will become infected and get sick. Children always carry the whole infection, we always get infected from them with something. These months, while we were at home, did not hurt anything», – wrote to the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America» Irina Oleinik, mother of a fifth-grader at a private Catholic school in Falls Church, Virginia.
In the meantime, in Maryland, parents who are in favor of providing this educational choice for their children are going to protest. Teachers urge parents to prepare for the new semester as before – only this time don’t forget to charge your Chromebooks..
Since 2012 – producer and correspondent for the Russian Service "Voices of America" in Washington. Graduate of the Faculty of Journalism of the North Caucasus Federal University. Focus on social issues, women’s rights, politics and culture
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