Helena-area students, families and educators are facing some major challenges this year, and many more difficulties are sure to come.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many working families are being forced to choose between their children and their income. Roughly 22% of students in Helena and 9% in East Helena are opting to take all of their classes online to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure, and the majority of them are not old enough to be left at home alone.
The students taking online-only classes could be working with a teacher and peers they have never met in person, and some of them might go weeks or months without playing with other children. Those who are opting for in-person classes likely have not seen the inside of a school building since schools closed in March, and they are returning to a completely different environment with completely different procedures and policies.
Instead of focusing solely on academics this year, teachers must work to ensure that their in-person students are following a long list of COVID-19 precautions and that their online students have the equipment and support they need.
And nobody knows that tomorrow may bring. Schools throughout the country and at least one in Montana ended up closing just a few days after reopening due to virus outbreaks, and the same thing could happen here in Lewis and Clark County at any moment.
What we do know is there are a lot of great people looking out for the best interests of students in our area.
School officials at the elementary, high school and college level spent the last several months diligently working to develop back-to-school plans that will both keep students and educators safe and provide the best education possible. None of their plans are perfect, however, because there is no perfect solution to the problems they will face over the next 10 months.
More likely than not, some of those plans are going to change as the pandemic continues to evolve. And those affected by those changes are going to need all the help and support they can get during this unprecedented year.
Let’s face it. This school year is going to be rough.
But we’ll get through if together if everyone remains flexible and patient when things go wrong.
This is the opinion of the Independent Record editorial board.
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