In just over a week, students will begin their academic year under markedly different circumstances. The omnipresent risk of contracting COVID-19 has unleashed a wave of uncertainty. Debates over virtual or in-person learning will continue to challenge school administrators, teachers, and parents across the country as everyone tries to find the most amenable solution, frenetically adapting to the latest statistical models from leaders in public health. It is imperative that those entrusted with the education of students, especially children, do everything in their power to ensure they can arrive to school safely.
Mitigation protocols will help prevent the risk of infection—but it’s clear there will never be a panacea which will obviate all risk. Some students will struggle to quickly adapt to these changes; and some schools will be unable to respond adequately. These difficulties cannot, however, merit a complete shutdown of the system, mandating educators adopt “virtual learning” alone. Experts have insisted that virtual learning alone does little to help the intellectual progress of students, especially younger children.
Thankfully, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence have plans in place to ensure that children can learn in the setting most proper to their growth — in-person classes — while mitigating against health risks. Parents certainly have the option for their child to receive an education at home; but parents who wish to send their children to school will still be able to do so in a safe manner. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has not yet disappeared, nor does it appear likely to leave us anytime soon. But this cannot constrict us from aspiring to authentic modules of education, which necessitate real community and friendship. We must not risk the proper advancement of our children out of an exaggerated fear. Our children deserve better.