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Morning Poll: In retrospect, did APS make the right call in closing classrooms for a year?

Arlington Public Schools headquarters lobby (staff photo)

There are rising regrets about the extended closure of public schools as a result of Covid, the Associated Press reports.

A lengthy article published by the newswire this morning discusses the wide-ranging impacts of pandemic-era learning loss and the inefficacy of “Zoom school.”

From the AP:

But her daughter became depressed and stopped doing school work or paying attention to online classes. The former honor-roll student failed nearly all of her eighth grade courses.

“She’s behind,” said Kargbo, whose daughter is now in tenth grade. “It didn’t work at all. Knowing what I know now, I would say they should have put them in school.”

Preliminary test scores around the country confirm what Kargbo witnessed: The longer many students studied remotely, the less they learned. Some educators and parents are questioning decisions in cities from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles to remain online long after clear evidence emerged that schools weren’t COVID-19 super-spreaders — and months after life-saving adult vaccines became widely available.

There are fears for the futures of students who don’t catch up. They run the risk of never learning to read, long a precursor for dropping out of school. They might never master simple algebra, putting science and tech fields out of reach. The pandemic decline in college attendance could continue to accelerate, crippling the U.S. economy.

Arlington Public Schools closed in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic and did not start to reopen, on a two-day-a-week hybrid basis, until March 2021 when mandated by the state and Gov. Ralph Northam (D). During that time, dueling Arlington parent groups formed to alternately push for and urge caution about a return to classrooms.

Most Arlington private schools resumed some degree of in-person learning in the fall of 2020. The Sun Gazette reported this week that APS enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels; many public schools in the wealthier parts of northern Arlington in particular saw enrollment drop as parents sent students to private schools.

While APS opened classrooms sooner than many school districts in California, for instance, it took awhile to even get most students back in classrooms part time, with the School Board pushing the superintendent later in March 2021 to accelerate the return.

APS finally reverted back to full-time, in-person learning in the fall of 2021 and stuck with it through the Omicron surge that winter. A small minority of students and parents opted for a new full-time virtual learning option, which ended up being beset by problems.

Given what we know now about the health impacts of Covid and about pandemic-era learning loss, do you think — with the benefit of hindsight — APS should have resumed in-person school sooner than it did?

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