On May 1st 2020, a decision was made that affected the lives of all students throughout New York State. Although we may have seen it coming, it was difficult to actually hear the news as Governor Cuomo made it official. In response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, schools in New York were ordered to remain closed for the rest of the academic year, joining the over thirty other states that have already declared school closures for the remainder of the ‘19 – ’20 academic year. This unprecedented moment in the country’s history is likely to have profound and long-lasting effects on the nation’s education system.
As part of an effort to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus, at least 50,000 schools nationwide have closed or are scheduled to close, affecting at least 30 million students. In the academic world, most school districts have shifted their instruction to online platforms. Students are continuing to learn by use of laptops or other WiFi compatible devices. Teachers and students interact via Google Meets and Zoom calls. This is the new norm; a new way of life for students. In fact, many are wondering if school will reopen in the fall. “I feel terrible for the current seniors since the end of the year is filled with many memorable events like Prom and graduation, and I’m hoping our class gets to experience the last first day of high school,” notes a high school junior from Wheatley.
During self-isolation, many students have become much more sedentary. Athletics and extracurricular activities have come to a screeching halt. “I definitely have become a lot less active, but I try to find ways to incorporate some activity into my new routine. I never realized how active school really kept us,” says a Whealtey junior.
Another change in many students’ lives are their sleep schedules. With the closing of schools comes many late nights. “My sleep schedule has changed a lot. I find myself going to sleep at 3AM and waking up at noon barely in time for my class Google Meet. It’s not the best habit, but I love waking up ten minutes before ‘class.’ It’s nice being able to attend the meetings in my pajamas. It’s basically an extended summer vacation. But it’s unfortunate that there’s no real schedule or structure in my life,” commented a sophomore. It is clear that the closure of schools has led to chaotic and almost random sleep schedules. This lack of structure may have been welcome to students during the beginning stage of the time off, but more and more students express a need for a schedule and routine to keep a positive mental and physical state.
What if schools reopen in September? Will parents and students feel comfortable going back to learning in an environment where social distancing is close to impossible? This is a topic that requires much consideration. After gathering several parents’ opinions on this topic, it is evident that many are hesitant to send their children back to school until the virus is fully eradicated or until an effective vaccine has been developed. “I don’t really see this situation getting better any time soon and I will have to think pretty hard on whether or not to send my child back to school if schools open in the fall,” comments the mother of a junior. According to CNBC, “parents won’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school unless cases drop to near zero,” which will continue to force working parents to balance child care and employment. “Reopening schools is arguably the most essential complication to overcome for economic recovery. Many parents simply can’t go back to work if their children are still home, no matter what government officials or business executives say about potential recovery timelines.”
It is the hope of parents and students alike that our lives can return to some semblance of normal as soon as possible. All we can do now is make an effort to stay home, practice social distancing, and protect ourselves and one another with the goal of reclaiming the structure and security of our pre-COVID lives.