On March 16th, more than 90% of California schools closed their doors due to the Coronavirus. The same day, most cities mandated shelter-in-place orders and families were scrambling to find a way to complete daily tasks while under one roof. Local leaders have tried to provide assistance while families are adjusting, but the support for teenage students has left something to be desired. Where one problem is solved, another is there to take its place, and the government is slow in patching the holes.
A steady stream of news has kept the public informed with updates on the historic COVID-19 virus. In just a few short weeks, the country went from observing foreign nations to franticly following in their footsteps. Now, just over a month after the official shelter-in-place order released by Gov. Newsom, citizens are still trying to adjust to their “new normal.” As local governments get their footing, they are attempting to provide assistance amidst the chaos; but some schools are falling short in their efforts to continue education.
Parents of children young and old are being asked to assist in ways that they aren’t equipped to handle. Although many parents want their kids to do well in their education, some parents can’t provide the same backing that others can. California is an extremely diverse state. In metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are many immigrant families where parents aren’t fluent in English. Some parents can’t communicate with the schools to get assistance that they need.
Virtual town hall meetings have been hosted regularly and they usually have translators for the most common languages in the state. Recently, a town hall meeting hosted by state senator Steve Glazer opened to try and address the concerns of parents and schooling. Guest speaking during this event was Denise Pope, an expert in child education, who provided advice on ways to keep children engaged during this time.
Her main points included finding a balance between “P.D.F” which stands for playtime, downtime, and family time. While her advice was helpful for parents with young children, it wasn’t as straight forward for parents of teenagers. Many parents were left wondering how to manage their older children.
All the support and encouragement parents are willing to give can’t change the fact that some schools can’t reach their students adequately. Many schools are turning to online teaching, but what happens when their students can’t access a computer? According to LA Times writers Howard Blume and Sonali Kohli, thousands of high school students are labeled as “absent” every day because they don’t appear in virtual classes. In this day and age, it seems almost impossible that students can’t reach the internet, but in reality, computer access can be extremely difficult for some families. In lower income communities, internet access can be difficult to come by.
Some schools have had laptops ready to loan out to students for years but getting these supplies to these students can be very difficult. Thousands of California youth rely on schools to provide supplies for them during the school year, and now they’ve been all but abandoned because they can’t reach the same level of attention.
If both of these problems were solved, we’re still left with one major issue: many students can’t stay engaged at home. Expecting high school students to remain focused on class all day while they are bombarded with the distractions of their household is almost impossible. Being trapped in a house with family can be really uncomfortable for many people. Family tension isn’t conducive to productive learning. Students with learning disabilities can struggle even more to grasp material in this new online world.
In the middle of a global crisis, we are trying to find normalcy in any way we can. Most teenagers, even those who gripe about school, depend on their education to bring them purpose. Now, with the looming possibility that school will be online in the fall, students are wondering how they’ll be able to cope; and the biggest question is, will the government be any better about it then?