The first days of a school year are often hard, especially for the youngest students who are separated from their parents for the first time and placed in a challenging new environment. This year, the usual anxieties have been replaced by different ones for students who are learning from home because the coronavirus has kept school buildings and normal classrooms off limits.

Remote learning is not all bad, of course. For some students, having a parent right there to help could be a big plus, even if mom or dad is overly stressed by having to juggle their own work-from-home with monitoring their child’s education. Hours of wasted time – traveling to school, changing classes, the inefficiencies of large classes, the distractions of other students’ unruly behavior – may also be eliminated by having everything reduced to interactions on a computer screen. On the other hand, remote learning may exacerbate the already pernicious learning gap between students in stable, relatively affluent homes with easy access to technology and  students whose home life is more chaotic and lacking in resources.

Kids and parents are now part of a massive, improvised learning experiment that may go on for an entire school year. With luck, there will be lessons learned that will improve the educational process once things return to something close to normal. The concern, though, is that, for too many children, it could be a year lost if this big experiment turns into a big failure.

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