Editorial: Fully in-person instruction needs to resume

Herd immunity should eliminate need for distance learning

By Editorial Staff

As coronavirus vaccines become more widely available and the administration makes plans for the upcoming school year, it needs to strongly encourage all students to attend in-person classes, as various studies have shown that distance learning can impact students’ academic performance and mental health.
Enough California residents will be vaccinated against the coronavirus within the next three weeks to reach herd immunity, according to Dr. Monica Gandhi, a University of California San Francisco infectious disease specialist said on May 5.
Fifty-three percent of San Franciscans are fully vaccinated, according to DataSF. Predictions are that more than 70% of San Francisco’s vaccine-eligible population will be fully vaccinated in three weeks.
We praise Convent & Stuart Hall for coordinating the onsite distribution of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to students, parents and neighborhood residents who meet age eligibility criteria.
While making exceptions for attending online classes when students had at-risk parents or people in their households — or were even at risk themselves — was extremely important before the majority of San Franciscans were vaccinated, the school should not allow students to attend classes remotely.
Students know this as well. Sixty-four percent of students said that they were worried about maintaining “focus and discipline” during online classes, according to a survey by Barnes & Noble Education.
Forty-five percent of the students in the same survey indicated they were concerned about their academics suffering as a result of online learning.
Besides declines in academic performance, students could suffer socially due to online school. “The physical distancing measures mandated globally to contain the spread of COVID-19 are radically reducing adolescents’ opportunities to engage in face-to-face social contact outside their household,” according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
These reduced “opportunities” are significant, as high school students are at a stage in their lives where they have a “heightened sensitivity to social stimuli,” according to the NCBI, meaning they require more social interaction than the average adult.
Students involved in the Barnes & Noble Education survey articulated this very problem, as 55% of them indicated they were concerned about the lack of social interaction in online learning because they learn better around their peers.
Perhaps more important than academic performance, however, are the mental health problems that can arise from a lack of social interaction.
While no long-term studies are available on depriving humans of social interaction, studies on animals have shown that there are “substantial and potentially long-term effects of social deprivation and isolation in adolescence on behaviours associated with mental health problems.”
Loneliness, although not proven through experimentation, is also correlated with depression, anxiety and suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Goal 4 of a Sacred Heart education emphasizes “the building of community as a Christian value,” which additionally obligates Convent & Stuart Hall to get students fully back to in-person instruction as soon as possible and bring the community back together.
Convent & Stuart Hall should not allow students to attend online classes at the beginning of next school year or readily provide the option as it did this year, when such measures were necessary.
Although the school should require students to attend in-person attendance, they may need to make some exceptions for serious reasons such as unvaccinated and immuno-compromised family members or those who cannot get the vaccine due to health reasons.
It is ultimately best for students’ wellbeing — both academically and mentally — to attend in-person school. As a prestigious academic institution, Convent & Stuart Hall should require that most students be on campus for the 2021-2022 school year.