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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Families disappointed by returning to distance education after vacation

DETROIT — Parent Latonia Peterson summed up her frustration at returning to Detroit schools—at least temporarily—for virtual learning in three short words: “I hate it.”

Faced with a surge in COVID-19 cases, this week the Detroit district joined a growing number of others in moving classes online after the winter break. Shifts of 50,000 students once again forced parents to give up juggling home and work schedules around their children’s educational needs.

A single parent who works more than 60 hours each week at two jobs, Peterson sometimes had to leave work to help her teenage son during more than a year of online learning.

“I’ll have to take time off, but I’m going to see how long it’s going to last. You only get so many days off and so many paid days off,” Peterson said on Wednesday, a day after the district announced that students Will resume classes at home with laptops at least from January 14.

Most of America’s districts appear to be returning to in-person learning, but other large school systems, including Newark, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Cleveland, have gone back to distance learning as staff members grow in transition. Dozens of smaller districts have followed, including Detroit, Chicago, and several districts around Washington.

Disruptions also sound the alarm about the risk to students. The long stretches of distance learning have taken a toll over the past two years, leaving many children with academic and mental health setbacks that experts are still trying to understand.

President Joe Biden, campaigning on a promise to reopen classrooms, is pressuring schools to stay open. With vaccines and routine virus testing, his administration has said there is no reason to keep schools closed.

“Look, at this point we have no reason to think that Omicron for children is worse than the previous variant,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday. “We know our kids can stay safe at school.”

But the reality is not so simple for some districts: Testing supplies are scarce, and many districts face fewer vaccines in their communities. In Detroit, only 44% of residents age 5 and older have received a dose of the vaccine, while the statewide rate is 63%.

In a letter to parents, Detroit superintendent Nikolai Vitti said a return to the classroom would result in “peak levels of positive cases,” in light of low vaccination rates among students and families.

“The only way to get to the other side of this epidemic is if we move to higher vaccination rates,” Vitti said.

The shutdowns are often prompted by waves of teachers calling in sick. More than a third of Philadelphia’s 216 public schools have switched to distance learning by at least Friday, sparking outrage among families who were given little time to prepare.

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On Friday, Chicago students stayed out of school for the third day in a row as school leaders failed to reach an agreement with the teachers union on virus safety protocols. The union wants to go back to remote instruction as the transition progresses.

In Detroit, Peterson and his 16-year-old son, Joshua Jackson, are both vaccinated. Joshua would prefer to be in person and said it was more difficult for him to concentrate in the virtual classroom.

“I feel like I’ve learned less,” said the high school junior. “I’m worried we won’t go back to class. They (the district) had done this before and said it would just be a while. It turned out to be a whole school year.”

Officials in districts returning to online instruction emphasize that the move is only temporary, with most intending to return to individual classes within a week or two. As infections reach record levels in some regions, some parents say this is the right move.

Nicole Berry’s three kids returned to Detroit classes last time around, but she’s been keeping them at home ever since she herself caught COVID-19 around Thanksgiving and got scared. Detroit gives families the option of full-time distance learning.

Berry, 48, works more than 40 hours per week as well as teaching them herself.

“My kids weren’t going back anyway. I had already decided,” she said.

In Chicago, Jennifer Baez said she hopes the district will allow distance learning until the boom slows. He and one of his sons recently fell ill with COVID-19. She is not sure if her children will wear their masks or other precautions will be taken.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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