For the past several weeks, even as COVID infection rates and hospitalizations have continued to increase, Gov. Phil Murphy has insisted the new school year was going to begin with full-time in-person instruction only.
Part of the reason why he has completely resisted calls for a virtual learning alternative is information gathered from a series of student roundtables conducted by the New Jersey Department of Education.
During those sessions, dozens of students from across the Garden State discussed their experiences with remote learning during the pandemic, and most of what they had to say was not positive.
One high school student from South Jersey, Christina, said her experience was filled with stress.
“It was hard not having that in-person learning, getting to know your teachers the same way, and it was hard to navigate, and being at home, there were a lot of distractions too,” she said.
Another student summed up his experience as exhausting.
“We went into the school two days a week, then we went all virtual, so it was like we would be sitting home every single day of the week on Zooms, that was probably one of the worst experiences I ever had, it’s just been a lot going on and I haven’t really gotten into a flow, he said.
“It’s been hard physically and mentally, I’ve just been exhausted with the repetition of the same thing every day, just staring at a screen, that’s made me both physically and mentally very tied,” said another South Jersey student.
Other students described virtual learning during the pandemic as frustrating, debilitating, and confusing.
Several said the inability to socialize, play sports and interact during classroom instruction made learning difficult and boring.
Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Angelica Allen McMillan said the roundtables “provided us with much-needed insight as we prepare for full reopening of schools.”
Earlier this summer she indicated part of the challenge of the new school year would be to find ways to help students make up for lost learning during the pandemic, although specifics have not been discussed.
Gov. Murphy has said while everything possible will be done to keep schools open, if virtual learning does become necessary “we now know how to do this and do it quickly, so if it came to it, we know the playbook.”