As cases continue to climb across Ohio, COVID-19 and what that means for back-to-school this fall is on everyone’s minds. Returning to school for the 2020-21 school year is going to be anything but normal and will look at lot different than in years past.
With an ongoing pandemic, school districts are being forced to adjust to a new normal, whether that means face-to-face instruction with strict protocols, virtual learning or a hybrid of both.
Parents are left wondering which option is the safest route, all the while advancing their children academically.
“The majority of my patients feel in-classroom learning is the better option, while about one quarter of families like the virtual learning option more,” said Dr. Emma Raizman, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Medina. “Either way, it all comes down to the needs of your child, her personality and where she will thrive best.”
To help parents make the most informed decision possible amid these uncertain times, Dr. Raizman answers your most pertinent questions about sending your kids to school this fall or going virtual.
What are the benefits of being in the classroom?
- Improved social skills: In the classroom, kids learn how to interact with peers and teachers, which is vital for development. Some kids who are shy may be forced to come out of their shell, while others are forced to control their disruptive behavior.
- Collaborative learning: Kids have the opportunity to work in groups, which can increase a child’s self-awareness and understanding of how to work with others.
- Builds critical thinking skills: Kids are engaged in live discussions and are forced to use critical thinking to formulate opinions or arguments, and gives them the chance to practice problem solving.
- Structured environment: Kids have a set schedule and are being made to do their work, instead of it being up to the child’s own willpower. Kids have to be organized and show up for class on time.
- Increased retention: Live interaction and face-to-face activities with teachers keep kids stimulated, so they are more willing to listen and pay attention, which increases retention. Students also can ask questions if they don’t understand and receive immediate feedback.
What are the benefits of virtual classrooms?
- Health and safety: By staying home, kids reduce their exposure to COVID-19.
- Flexibility: Families can make their own daily schedules and decisions about what’s most important for them.
- Involvement: Parents are more involved in schoolwork and can watch their kids grow and develop academically. They will see more clearly their child’s strengths and weaknesses, so they can help kids take advantage of their strengths, while overcoming weaknesses.
- Self-paced: Kids can take breaks several times throughout the day and get active. They can run around outside, ride bikes or go for a family walk.
- Independence: Kids will learn responsibility and accountability. They will take pride in their work and gain more independence.
- One-on-one attention: For subjects they’re struggling with, students will receive more individualized assistance and instruction.
What type of kids thrives in virtual settings?
Kids who are independent, computer savvy and want to learn on their own terms will excel in the virtual classroom.
Also, kids who struggled with bullying or social issues in school may do well in a virtual setting. Instead of worrying about a bully at recess or lunchtime, they can focus on their schoolwork and relieve their anxiety.
Kids with ADD/ADHD will usually do better in a structured classroom environment where they are given a set schedule. However, some children with attention issues will do better with the ability to take activity breaks and have some flexibility with virtual learning.
“For virtual learning to be successful for a child of any age or situation, however, the responsibility falls on the parents,” said Dr. Raizman. “Parents must be involved and keeping kids on track. Kids will not do well if parents are working all day at home and kids are left to manage their school assignments on their own.”
How can parents feel safer about sending their kids to school this fall?
Districts are doubling their efforts to help keep kids safe. Parents need to ask questions and make sure their school is following state recommendations and protocols.
The most important steps schools should be taking include:
- Daily Health Assessments: Students and staff should be asked to take their own temperatures every morning before going to school. If they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or have temperatures above 100 degrees, they have to stay home.
- Face coverings: Every person on school grounds or buses should be required to wear a face covering. More and more research is pointing to the importance of wearing a mask. Parents really need to encourage their children to wear their masks and model the behavior, as well.
- Social distancing: Schools should try to keep kids at least 6 feet apart and limit the number of students in each classroom. Desks in classrooms should be rearranged to accommodate this need, and schools may alter student schedules throughout the day as a way to minimize the number of students and staff in common areas, such as hallways and cafeterias.
- Cleaning and sanitizing: All school surfaces should be cleaned and sanitized more frequently, especially high-touch areas, such as books, chairs, computers, desks and bathrooms. At home, parents need to talk to their kids about the importance of washing their hands frequently and using hand sanitizer.
How do I know what’s right for my child?
When it comes to deciding whether in-classroom instruction or virtual learning is best for your family, ask yourself a few questions to make sure you’re basing your decision on the right reasons.
Am I making this decision based on what’s best for my child or because it’s what I feel I’m supposed to do? Is this decision based on which area I think my child will thrive or it is based on my own fear?
“Make sure your decision is made on sound reasoning and incorporates your child’s needs,” said Dr. Raizman. “You have a good sense of what your child needs and what works best for her, so listen to your gut.”
If you’re struggling to decide what’s best for your family, schedule an appointment with one of our pediatricians by calling 330-543-2778 to discuss your concerns.
Learn more about Akron Children’s COVID-19 response and resources available for families.
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