Safe in-person education should be non-negotiable

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the quality of education has declined with a majority of K-12 schools and universities being forced online, many for more than a year – including the University of La Verne, which had to go back online briefly at the beginning of this year.

As we seem to be over the worst of the Omicron wave, local mask mandates are loosening up again. Still, we need to stay vigilant so that a new surge down the road does not force schools into remote learning again.

In-person education must be prioritized over business interests.

Schools should stay open, even if businesses have to close in the event of a new COVID wave. That’s not what happened in 2020 and 2021, but that’s where our values as a society should be.

The study “Learning loss due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic,” done by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, stated that early data from online learning platforms suggest a drop in completed coursework and lower test scores. The study also notes that students spend considerably less time studying when the physical schools were closed.

Forcing students to learn online brings other distractions. Remote learning exacerbates the inequities public education was designed to address, presenting barriers for students who may lack quiet space to study, or access to fast Internet. Most students also suffer from a lack of contact with peers.

In the article, “Supporting Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Maximizing In-Person Learning and Implementing Effective Practices for Students in Quarantine and Isolation,” the Department of Education finds that in-person learning leads to better academic outcomes, greater levels of student engagement, higher rates of attendance, better social and emotional well-being. In-person education also ensures access to critical school services and extracurricular activities.

We and our institutions need to keep doing our part to slow the COVID spread, including getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks, testing and tracing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled a list of recommendations for keeping students in school.

The recommendations include most importantly adequately funding schools to support safety measures with access to COVID testing, continuing with school mask mandates, and other measures.

We’re all tired of wearing masks, of social distancing, of COVID.

But the alternative prospect of going back online for inferior education is worse for us as individuals and as a society.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.

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