By Sanai Browning
Science Leadership Academy at Beeber
March will mark the one-year anniversary of remote learning for students in Philadelphia and around the country. When schools closed their doors last spring, many people thought we wouldn’t be out for more than six months, let alone a year.
If 2020 has taught us anything at all, it was to expect the unexpected. So, a year later, here’s the $64,000 question: Has anything changed?
In a survey of 400 students at Science Leadership Academy, 350 respondents said they have experienced no change in their lives and daily routines since the onset of the pandemic. The survey focused on pupils from grades nine through twelve.
The main reason for this holding pattern is clear: COVID-19 is still here and is still a clear and present danger.
The concern now for health officials is monitoring how many variants will emerge, how different they will be from each other, how capable they will be of reinfecting people, and will they resist current vaccines.
Another reason why little has changed for students in the past year is ongoing disputes between teachers’ unions and school districts as how and when schools can reopen safely.
Our fair city is a good example.
For weeks, Philadelphia city teachers have balked at returning to the classroom, citing safety concerns for both teachers and students.
In a recent published op-ed, Jerry T. Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, pointed out that the two key areas that the school district and city need to address in advance of reopening school buildings are ventilation and vaccines.
Even the Biden Administration has been giving mixed messages on school reopening. The CDC has suggested that schools pose very little risk of spreading the virus once they reopen, and President Biden has set a goal of making this happen in his first 100 days in office.
The central question is should schools reopen before all teachers and students are vaccinated?
Chances are most teachers are eligible for the COVID vaccine. But do we know when vaccines will become available for teenagers and younger children?
Hopefully, this will be before the start of the 2021-22 school year.
And when we hear school bells ringing once again, hopefully, we can say “Yes, much has changed.”