These days have been interesting around the Alder Financial Group office with our two new interns, Sydney (7) and Morgan (5). Public schools around metro Atlanta are currently operating on a virtual only platform. My girls are currently in week 5 and thankfully many of the technology glitches are much better. The first 2 weeks were a complete disaster with the website being overwhelmed with traffic and frequently crashing. Now that we’re mostly up and running virtually, watching a kindergartener try to navigate back and forth between Zoom and a plethora of other websites has been quite mind-boggling.
Meanwhile, Charles’ college age kids have been back at the University of Georgia in Athens for a month and have both contracted Covid. Thankfully, they are both fine and out of quarantine. The same dynamic is happening at Georgia Tech as my nanny’s son tested positive and is being put up in a hotel for his quarantine as he is not allowed to stay in the dorm. These hotels have been nicknamed the “Coronahotels” and are popping up at college campuses across the country. Judging by how quickly it is spreading, college campuses will soon be on their way to herd immunity. On the bright side, college kids that have already had the virus while distanced can now come home without the risk of spreading Covid to older or more at risk family members.
Although neither of these options seem ideal, this is the situation we are faced with. It was just announced last week that our school district will resume face to face on October 5th for elementary aged students. Parents have the choice to remain virtual or return to school in person. I asked our pediatrician for her perspective at a well visit last week and her response was that young children are very unlikely to spread the virus and should return to school, with masks. She’s a proponent of the pod mentality where each class is its own pod and does not come in contact with other pods. However, she said high school students are far more likely to spread the virus and likely won’t take the social distancing measures seriously. After hearing what is going on at local colleges, that certainly seems to be the case. Unlike college students, since these students live at home, there is more risk of spreading the virus to more vulnerable people. In our county, in person high school is tentatively set to return November 5th. As we enter cold and flu season, it seems questionable whether this will happen for that age group, but only time will tell.
While there are risks of spreading coronavirus as kids return to school, according to the CDC and the American Board of Pediatricians, extended school closure is harmful to children academically, socially, physically, and emotionally. Back in April during the shift to virtual school, a study in Los Angeles showed that about 1/3 of high school students were logging in for classes. While it has been said that today’s kids and teens are technically savvy, what we are finding is that Facebook, Tik Tok and iPhone skills don’t translate into being competent in troubleshooting computer problems and navigating virtual school. On top of that, it’s estimated that around 20% of students nationwide don’t have access to the technology needed for remote learning. When all of the impacts are taken into account, new research suggests that by September, the average student could fall seven months behind academically, while lower income students could fall behind 9 or 10 months. This has been dubbed the “Covid Slide”.
Per the CDC, the best evidence available from the countries that have reopened schools indicates that children are unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting Covid and scientific studies suggest that transmission among children in schools is low. Private schools in our area have been open for about a month now and have remained open. The reality is, many parents have their kids going to local gyms, daycares or other groups for virtual school so they can work. Activities are mostly in full swing so groups of children are gathering even without school being face to face. Hopefully going forward, we can find the best way to minimize risk of both virus transmission and learning loss.
I don’t have all the answers, but here at Alder, we are living through the educational impacts of Covid from elementary to college age students and we thought you might find our perspective interesting.