Cover: The debate over summer school
Summer School: Yesterday, New York City detailed its summer school learning plans for nearly 180,000 students. The proposal includes pre-recorded lessons, “virtual field trips,” “virtual clubs,” and e-books. According to the New York Daily News, for roughly “67,000 students in grades three through eight, there will be classes four days per week for six weeks, starting July 13. About 83,000 high schoolers will get classes every weekday, starting on the same date. For about 27,700 students with disabilities, classes will start July 1.” Given the sheer amount of students in the New York City public school system, the headline serves as a barometer for the broader notion of summer school across the US. After coronavirus disrupted the spring semester and students were forced to “learn” online, there is now a growing debate over whether or not summer school should be mandatory. Here’s how it’s playing out:
There seems to be a general consensus that some form of summer school is needed. If not, students may drastically fall behind. In China, for example, students have a summer vacation which is much shorter than in the US according to Thought Co. “Summer vacation typically begins in mid-July though some schools start their vacations in June. The vacation lasts for approximately one month.” The follow-up question, however, is whether or not summer school should be done in-person or online. Those who argue that it should be done online point to potential health-concerns. Take France, for example. The country has recorded 70 new cases of the coronavirus in schools that were allowed to reopen last week. The worry is that kids will then act as the vector, transporting the virus to older members of their families which could be at more risk. France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that the new cases were “inevitable” but that “almost all” of the cases originated outside school. He also noted that the 70 cases were a small proportion of the 1.4 million schoolchildren who had returned.
On the other hand, proponents of in-person learning admit that “reopening classrooms brings risks. But they can be mitigated, and isolation costs kids far more dearly.” That’s according to Robert C. Hamilton of the Wall Street Journal who argues that remote learning is not going well. “On March 30 the Los Angeles Unified School District reported that 15,000 of its high-school students hadn’t checked in with their schools once since they closed two weeks earlier. Another 40,000 LAUSD high schoolers—one-third of the student body—weren’t in daily contact with their teachers.” In addition to lackluster or nonexistent attendance Hamilton says that, “confining children indoors for prolonged periods is also proving to have a negative influence on their psychological health. Psychologists openly worry about depression, stress, loneliness and the sense of vulnerability this prolonged isolation could inflict on children.” Plus, children still appear to be less susceptible to the disease. In one large survey of coronavirus patients, only 1.7% were under 18. Nearly 70% of those were asymptomatic.” For these reasons, Hamilton says “it’s time for some bold decisions. Start by getting children back to school.”
Flag This: One of the most important aspects of allowing children to go back to school actually has to do with the parents. Those who work at home with youngsters crying in the background are less productive. Those who work outside the home can’t leave unless they have a babysitter. As The Economist points out, “In poor countries the costs are even greater. Schools there often provide free lunches, staving off malnutrition, and serve as hubs for vaccinating children against other diseases.” Stateside, with children out of the house, small business owners may finally get a chance to focus on items that will directly impact their ability to weather the pandemic. If parents can’t catch a break and they lose their jobs because they’ve become the 24-hour caretaker, that’s not good for them or their children.