Editorial: Mental health too important to go remote

As conferences, shows, and sporting events are rapidly being shut down across the United States, omicron seems to be the only thing thriving. With case counts spiking rapidly, many school districts in the state of Illinois have begun to consider a return to remote learning. Some, such as District 33, have even made the switch, canceling in person classes for the time being and moving all learning to a remote platform. 

Amidst the heavy praise and harsh criticism for remote learning that is flying around, many of us at AT have been thinking about the possibility of our own school district making the decision to switch to remote learning. However, we believe that making the switch to online schooling would not be in the best interest of students’ health.

It has been found that while omicron is rapidly spreading and highly contagious, it isn’t causing high numbers of severe or deadly cases. Although the delta variant didn’t spread nearly as fast, making it seem less dangerous than omicron, it typically did have much harsher repercussions. Most omicron cases lead only to milder symptoms similar to those of a cold.

So why are school districts still considering remote learning? Obviously, the spread of omicron is nothing to just shrug off, and the districts are right to want to stop it. However, the decision to go remote fails to take mental health into consideration, which is why we believe it’s the wrong decision.

We are struggling. Coming back from the disastrously under effective remote learning debacle of last year has had severe consequences for us all. We have missed out on learning important things, been crippled by the work demanded out of us in order that we can catch up, and for many of us, this is the first year we truly feel we have failed completely as students. Remote learning damaged our work ethics, crushed our abilities to focus, and put a big fat hiatus in our education. 

Going back would be detrimental to our health.

Unfortunately, for many students, the reverberations of returning to remote learning may be even greater. Students living in unhealthy home environments and students with severely compromised mental health may be even more susceptible to the negative effects of remote learning. School is a safe place for many of us who need a place with people we can trust and talk to.

Given the fact that omicron is not highly dangerous in terms of its typical symptoms and the fact that we have a mask mandate in District 88, we don’t believe that the decision to go remote would be appropriate at this time. While we do see a need for better enforcement of the mask policy in school, going remote would compromise mental health too strongly for too many students. The tradeoff is not worth it when omicron poses so little risk. 

Then cons of remote learning extend beyond health and bleed into learning as well. 

We don’t feel we will continue to educate students efficiently through a remote platform and falling behind further could prove even more detrimental to education. We already have seen the way remote learning has inhibited students, and this will be increased exponentially if done again. Not coincidentally, this will be the cause of even more blows to mental health for students.

The effects extend endlessly. Unless physical health becomes more at risk, we cannot compromise mental health to prevent a small loss of physical health. It is not enough to support students in the name of caring about mental health. We believe major decisions must consider it as an important factor as well.

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