By Tim Gebhart 5:27 pm PST

At the beginning of the lockdowns a year ago in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Education Writers Association “nearly three-quarters of public schools either closed or are planning to close … many colleges and universities are moving to online learning or are ending the semester outright.” Though a year has passed since the lockdowns started, many schools across the United States remain closed and have relied on virtual education. The Lancet, a publication on child and adolescent health stated, “over 90% of enrolled learners (1·5 billion young people) worldwide are now out of education.”

There is still a heated debate as to whether schools in the United States should reopen or stay virtual. There is a unanimous consensus however, that virtual learning for children is less than ideal. UNESCO released a list detailing the adverse consequences of school closures. The list includes social isolation, a significant rise in drop-out rates, and high economic costs of parents having to work less to facilitate their children in online learning.

UNESCO also stated, “when schools close, especially unexpectedly and for unknown durations, teachers are often unsure of their obligations and how to maintain connections with students to support learning. Transitions to distance learning platforms tend to be messy and frustrating, even in the best circumstances. In many contexts, school closures lead to furloughs or separations for teachers.”

When schools close, especially unexpectedly and for unknown durations, teachers are often unsure of their obligations and how to maintain connections with students to support learning”

Kindergarten teacher showcases toys to her student in front of laptop during their video conference. (Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky )

The Lancet addressed the many mental health issues children face because of the pandemic lockdowns. Children with disabilities are most affected, “school routines are important coping mechanisms for young people with mental health issues. When schools are closed, they lose an anchor in life and their symptoms could relapse. “Going to school had been a struggle for [some children with depression] prior to the pandemic, but at least they had school routines to stick with”, said Zanonia Chiu, a registered clinical psychologist working with children and adolescents in Hong Kong, where schools have been closed since Feb 3.”

For many younger children in kindergarten and elementary school, they missed months, to almost a year of essential learning experiences in the classroom that online learning cannot replace. Nearly an entire year of curriculum, learning, and socializing for many students has been delayed.

According to Mickinsey, “in 28 states, with around 48 percent of K–12 students, distance learning has not been mandated. As a result, many students may not receive any instruction until schools reopen. Even in places where distance learning is compulsory, significant numbers of students appear to be unaccounted for. In short, the hastily assembled online education currently available is likely to be both less effective, in general, than traditional schooling and to reach fewer students as well.”

Many in the field of education have stated that the effects on children of missing so much education will only start to be clear years down the road. For children, these effects may follow them for the rest of their lives. The longer the lockdowns last, the more they may be affected.