As coronavirus continues to run rampant throughout the world, schools and universities are having to adapt their approach to learning in a variety of ways. As the new school year begins, it is clear that there is no uniform approach to reopening, but rather a collection of plans, each in response to unique scenarios.
Within Massachusetts, there are clear differences in approach not only by town, but also by school. Within the University of Massachusetts system, for example, a controversy has emerged surrounding the different approaches that individual branches are choosing to conform to. While UMass Boston has made the difficult decision to convert to complete online learning for the Fall semester, UMass Amherst has decided to let all students with reserved on-campus housing return. Although these two schools are within the UMass system and only 2 hours away, this scenario shows just how circumstantial each school’s decision-making process is.
While this seemingly sporadic decision-making is proving hard for domestic students, international students are under even more stress as arrangements for the upcoming school year are being made. In early July, the state department stated that all international students’ visas would be revoked if they would not be returning to campus. This decision would have had an impact on a large percentage of students attending institutions enacting solely virtual learning. Days later, due to a lawsuit involving many high profile institutions including Harvard, the government-backed down on this statement. This decision left students relieved, as it could have meant the deportation of millions of students, many of which would have come from Massachusetts.
While colleges and universities are seeing a large impact as a result of coronavirus restrictions in terms of online versus in-person learning, school systems around the United States are also making this difficult decision. In San Diego and Los Angeles, California’s two largest school districts, superintendents have already concluded that students will be pursuing online learning in the Fall, although specifics about returning to school have not yet been decided. Atlanta has made a similar announcement, stating that its public schools will enact online learning during the first 9 weeks of the academic year.
While it is easy to see why schools within highly COVID-19 stricken cities are making these decisions, the virus has also impacted schools closer to home. Although Massachusetts has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases as of late July, the future is still uncertain. Because of this, many school districts are considering online learning, as well as giving families the task of making a decision between virtual and in-person learning. The unfortunate reality of this uncertainty means that many students won’t know their future until the end of the summer, and until then it is critical to practice appropriate safety measures to combat the virus as much as possible.