No, BLS Should Not Switch to a Remote Learning Model

By Thomas Oakes (IV), Contributing Writer

With the recent surge of the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant, many Boston Latin School students and staff have raised concerns about the school staying open with no virtual option.

Though these concerns are understandable, a BLS remote response to this virus would disrupt students’ social and academic development. It would also place a heavy burden on struggling families to find the resources necessary for their students to thrive. Going remote is neither a fair nor ideal solution to education during a pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 582 people under the age of 18 have died solely from COVID-19 since 2020, well under one percent of the youth population of the United States.

The risk of death in the BLS community and in the families of students is further reduced since Boston Public Schools has extended its mask mandate to February 28. Furthermore, the majority of BLS community members have been vaccinated against COVID-19, with students now having the opportunity to get the booster as well.

The fully remote model of 2020-2021, with students attending all classes through Zoom, wreaked havoc on student mental health. Many were isolated from real social interactions with people their age. Tragically, according to the CDC, suicide rates among youth were skyrocketing, with suicide attempts among girls aged 12 to 17 increasing 50 percent in 2021 compared to 2017.

Though it may seem ordinary, face-to-face interaction and social development — both which school provides students — is crucial, fragile and irreplaceable by online interaction. “It made me more stressed […] to not be able to be in the building and interact with people face to face. I lost some social development,” says Lorelei Currier (IV).

This sentiment is not unique. Anxiety and depression, particularly among high school students, rose dramatically over the course of school lockdowns. Guidance counselor Ms. Elaine Sylvester states, “I think there was an uptick [in mental health issues]. Being able to put eyes on students, students being able to put eyes on teachers and peers […] really helps socialization and mental health.”

The mental health challenges that isolation provoke are further exacerbated by the stress of remote learning. For many families, remote learning can be a nightmare scenario for parents who are unable to stay home with their kids during the day or for students who lack adequate access to Wi-Fi and technology. Online learning is not a realistic or beneficial option for students whose home life cannot support it.

Remote learning also has a negative effect on student academic performance. Due to declining mental health and the convenience of cheating, and consequently falling behind, during the disengaged style of remote learning, an overwhelming number of students struggled to complete assignments, take assessments with academic honesty and even show up for class.

BLS Classics teacher Mr. Patrick Finnigan explains, “There are students who have more responsibilities at home. Not having the structure of being in school, [or] having a common touchpoint with adults to keep you going, was harmful.”

Now that students have returned to the engaging, in-person style of learning, the contrast between the two learning methods is clear: sitting in a house all day on Zoom is not a replacement for the academic support, basic levels of social interaction, daily routine and healthy environment that in-person learning offers. Going back to remote learning would be an ultimate disaster.