Learning Abandoned As Schools Fight Virus, Regulations
RALEIGH, NC – In his first week back to school after a year and a half, 7-year-old Ben Medlin was exposed to an infected classmate and he was sent home, with 7,000 other students in the district, during 14 days of quarantine.
There hasn’t been much learning in Ben’s house.
On some days of the past week, the second grader did not receive any work from his teachers. On others, he had finished by 9:30 a.m., his daily tasks consisting of solving 10 math problems or punctuating four sentences, according to his mother.
âIt was very simple and a very, very, very easy job,â said Kenan Medlin.
As coronavirus outbreaks caused by the delta variant lead districts across the United States to abruptly shut down or send large numbers of quarantined children home, some students are receiving minimal tuition.
Despite billions of dollars in federal funds at their disposal to prepare for new epidemics and develop contingency plans, some local governors, education departments and school boards have been caught off guard.
[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage Â» arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]
In addition, some school systems have been handcuffed by laws or state policies aimed at keeping students in classrooms and strongly discouraging or restricting the return to distance learning.
The disruption – and the risk of young people falling further behind academically – has been unsettling for parents and educators.
The Ben District School Board in Union County, outside of Charlotte, relented on Monday and voted to allow most of its quarantined students to return to class until they are known to be be infected or have no symptoms. The state’s top health official on Wednesday threatened legal action against the district unless it reverts to more stringent quarantine procedures.
Union County school officials said they do not offer virtual education but contact parents of affected children to help them match guardians or other helpers for their youngsters. One in 6 students in the optional mask neighborhood was quarantined last week.
In the rural district of Wellington, Kansas, students were given a week off from school when an epidemic erupted. Instead of going online, the district decided to add 10 minutes to each day to make up for time lost when it reopens on Tuesday. Masks are also mandatory now.
Kansas districts risk losing funding if they offer online or blended learning for more than 40 hours per student per year.
[EMAIL SIGNUP: Form not appearing above? Click here to subscribe to updates on the coronavirus Â» arkansasonline.com/coronavirus/email/]
In Missouri, the Board of Education in July repealed a rule that allowed school districts to offer blended and distance education for months at a time. Districts that are shutting down entirely due to covid-19 epidemics, like eight small rural school systems did this year, are now limited to 36 hours of alternative education, like Zoom courses. After that, they have to make up for time later.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said laws restricting virtual education are shortsighted. She noted that some of those states also do not have mask or vaccination requirements.
“It’s just crazy because this is still a pandemic, and as much as we had all hoped it would be over, delta made it clear that it was not over,” she said. .
Information for this article was provided by Jeff Amy and Collin Binkley of The Associated Press.
Jeff and Emily Goss read with their five-year-old son on Monday, September 13, 2021 at their home in Monroe, North Carolina. After a year of strict quarantine, the Gosses were eager for Berkeley to start learning in person in the Union County School District. But after board members chose not to force children to wear masks and eliminate contact tracing procedures, the Gosses decided to homeschool in Berkeley. (AP Photo / Sarah Blake Morgan)
Five-year-old Berkeley Goss reads her favorite insect book at her home in Monroe, North Carolina. His parents, Jeff and Emily Goss chose to remove him from the Union County school district where he attended the first week of kindergarten in person, fearing the lack of mask requirements could lead to COVID infection. -19 for Berkeley or his at- risk family members. (AP Photo / Sarah Blake Morgan)
Emily Goss reviews schoolwork at the kitchen table with her five-year-old son inside their home in Monroe, NC on Monday, September 13, 2021. The Gosses have decided to go to school at home in Berkeley after the Union County School District chose not to implement a mask warrant for children. (AP Photo / Sarah Blake Morgan)