The Effects of COVID-19 on Public Education

Imagine you are a student in high school right now. You walk into school on your group’s assigned day because you only get to be in the school building two days a week, and you are wearing a mask. As you walk into the school, they have big thermometers that scan all of the students as they enter. 

From there you go to your classes like normal, but you always have to wait for your seat to be disinfected by your teacher before you can sit down for each class. Later, you see your friend at lunch, so you go to sit next to them, but they make you sit at opposite ends of the table because you must stay six feet apart at all times.

This is the average in-person school day for high school students at Washburn Rural High School during the current global pandemic. It is necessary for schools to take precautions and create a safe learning environment for the teachers and students at this time, but these changes are altering the students’ school environment, learning, and overall education.

Washburn Rural High School has had to make many changes in how they go about making their school a safe place while trying to protect the teachers and students who work and attend school from the coronavirus. 

Gifted Facilitator and Freshman Honors English Teacher at WRHS, John Williams, explains that some of the changes the school has made to be safer include, “Requirements of masks, disinfecting of desks between each class period, social distancing everywhere within the building, deep-cleaning of high-traffic areas/surfaces, and hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is everywhere.”

The health and safety measures Williams mentions have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) to ensure a safe school environment. Many things have changed as well in terms of how the school works, but the question of how Covid-19 has affected teachers ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn. 

Williams also mentions that he has had to adapt his teaching methods in order to properly teach his students while also following the regulations and guidelines put in place by the school.

“Many of my most fun and engaging activities are either impossible (i.e. deeply irresponsible given the virus) or needing adaptations that take the essence of the activity away,” he noted.

These changes can make teaching harder and has forced teachers to be more creative with how they go about bringing the information and material to the students. It is important for the teachers to be able to teach the students the proper curriculum, but the curriculum itself is another topic that is subject to change because of the virus. What the students are learning is a key aspect of their education. Many things have changed, but the students’ learning is still the most valuable thing for their education.

Jenny Anderson, senior reporter and editor for How to be Human, brings up an interesting point in her article, “The Coronavirus Pandemic is Reshaping Education”. 

She says schools need to make educated decisions on how they allow their students to learn because,“If they don’t teach remotely, all of their students miss out on months of curriculum. If they do, a sizable group of already disadvantaged students will be left out and will fall even farther behind.” 

This demonstrates the difficulty for schools because they need to make sure that students are receiving the knowledge needed to fit their curriculum, but it can affect the students who probably have limited technology or internet access. 

However, even with these difficulties, Williams says, “I do believe that students can still acquire an adequate education under the hybrid model.”

It is not just the students’ education that is cause for worry, but how the students deal with this is important because their life and school are very impactful on their life.

Williams makes it clear that, “My [Williams] students’ mental health is my top priority as I believe their mental health is a prerequisite to access education.” 

Making a point to encourage proper mental health during this time for students is incredibly important to make sure that students are safe from a mental standpoint.

“I want any student to know that whether I have had them in-class or not that my door is always open to talk about whatever is happening in their lives, or if they just want to have a fun chat to get their mind off of things,” he adds.

There are just so many aspects of public education to take into account when making accommodations to keep everyone safe from the pandemic. These adjustments have caused a lot of differences for these schools, but education is extremely crucial, and no matter how difficult this pandemic makes educating today’s youth, they must continue through these tough times.