Virtual learning week is necessary

Aran Sonnad-Joshi

Although Covid-19 rates in Georgia and across the United States have been declining, it is still important to take precautions in order to prevent a resurgence of the virus. Atlanta Public Schools is taking appropriate steps by requiring  all schools return to virtual learning for the week following spring break. 

Even though vaccination rates are climbing, mitigation strategies have become even more critical because perceived immunity has made people less careful and more willing to be reckless. Despite the surge in vaccinations, many Americans are still unvaccinated and susceptible to the virus. Even those who have received the vaccine may not be 100 percent protected and could still transmit the disease to those around them. This means  spring break travel could lead to higher rates of infection throughout the U.S. population, and school districts, specifically APS, must respond accordingly. 

According to the CDC, air travel increased during spring break, reaching the highest levels since pandemic restrictions were put in place over a year ago. This means more people across the country are coming in contact with each other, making it easier for the virus to spread. Although airplanes are relatively safe due to filters and other precautions, it is still possible for people on flights to spread coronavirus to those in close proximity to them. 

No matter how people travel during spring break, any type of travel will put more people at risk of getting sick. This risk is increased by the transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, also known as the UK Variant, which has now spread to every U.S. state. Researchers have also found that this variant spreads more easily in kids than other strains, which could put students and schools at a higher risk.

Some may argue returning to virtual school for the week after spring break will disrupt learning ;however, the difference between in-person and virtual Zoom learning is currently minimal. Students and teachers log on to the same classes whether they are in the school building or at home.  The only difference is the setting, which doesn’t impact education enough to warrant putting people at risk. Although maintaining a routine is important, flexibility is required of us during these times and logging onto Zoom from a different place for a week is a small sacrifice for students to make to ensure their safety and protect those around them.

Even if there is a difference; however, one week would not have a significant impact in the long run. For months, APS managed to make virtual school work for students and teachers and many people are still doing so. An additional four days of in-person instruction is not worth sacrificing the health and safety of APS staff and students.

Right now, schools must focus on preventing the spread of the virus. If the pandemic makes a resurgence, it could have deadly impacts on schools and further disrupt daily life for students and teachers. Outbreaks of the B.1.1.7 variant have already prompted school closures in Europe and, if the situation is not handled carefully, this spring could become a repeat of last spring. APS is rightfully putting the health of students and teachers first, and for that, I applaud the district.