We’re all trying our best to keep our families safe in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. But with schools opening again, the reality of possible exposure to covid is sinking in. More than likely, students who are going to in-person school will at one point be exposed to someone with the virus. If students are exposed to covid, they must quarantine. This begs the question…
What happens to academic progress when students are quarantined?
Right now, in the state of California, the California Department of Education states, “While schools continue to be open for in-person instruction, a significant number of students have been subject to quarantine due to exposure or infection.” For vaccinated students, quarantine is 14 days but for unvaccinated students, the CDE provides a different quarantine timeline: “engage in modified or standard quarantine depending on the circumstances of the exposure” (CDE). This vague guideline brings a lot of uncertainty to students and their families. When a student quarantines, he cannot know for certain how long the quarantine will turn out to be. Currently, students 12 and under are not authorized to receive the Pfizer vaccine. At the same time, children 18 and under are unauthorized to receive Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
The CDE says, “quarantine days should not be missed instructional days.” This means that even if you’re at home, you need to do schoolwork. Hypothetically, schools should be able to turn their long-term independent study course into a short-term solution for quarantined students.
Ideally, this should be fine, but the problem is that many schools are unable to “hire the teachers required to provide independent study for these quarantined students. As a result, they can languish in an educational limbo” (desertsun). Schools are unable to provide these instructors for independent study. In San Francisco Unified, when a large number of students applied to change from in-person to online, a spokesperson from their district stated “there might not be enough teachers to accommodate these students.” Another issue arises with the independent study itself. When a student abruptly has to leave school to be quarantined, the school may take several days to coordinate independent study. By the time an independent study plan is ready for the quarantined student, that student would have already fallen behind. While here at the LA Unified School district, teacher unions have agreed on a learning plan for covid, “teachers … will be required by their contract to provide simultaneous instruction. That involves streaming the same lesson to students quarantining at home that they’re also delivering to students in the classroom”(laist).
Some schools have opted out of independent study and instead approach quarantining students differently. In Alabama, one superintendent in Selma said that teachers would teach remote and in-person students simultaneously. Eight states have banned schools from issuing a mask mandate. In Florida, a new rule revision would allow asymptomatic students to return to school, yet many citizens criticize this choice. Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon states, “This rule is likely to promote the spread of Covid-19 by preventing schools from implementing the common-sense masking and quarantine policies recommended.” (CNN)
While other school districts are finding solutions outside of the district, in Atlanta, the Fulton County school board “approved an estimated $3 million for tutoring services, including help for students who cannot learn in-person.” Chief Academic Officer Cliff Jones states,“Schools also will be able to work with the tutoring companies to provide extra help to students who have fallen behind during the pandemic”. (ajc)
Perhaps bringing in outside tutoring assistance will help to bridge the gap for students struggling during covid. One thing is obvious; students need extra attention during trying times as such.