With the recent dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the Capital Region, Albany City Schools have pivoted to online learning.

As reported by WNYT Channel 13, the school system will be remote until at least January 18th. Students will be attending class on their Chromebooks until at least that time, when the situation will be re-evaluated.

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Some know this about me, and some don't. After graduating college, and before coming to New York, I was a long-term substitute teaching in a middle school reading class. Since I was working in late 2020 and early 2021, I saw first-hand the impact of remote, or hybrid learning on young students, and to this day, the concept makes me cringe.

Here are the pro's and con's, from my perspective on it.

The Pros: Safety First

The first "pro" on the list is clearly the most important, and that is safety. The last thing in the world that we need to have happen, is an outbreak of COVID-19 at a school. No matter what the symptoms of the new variant look like, even the slightest bit of sickness can impact young babies, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Unsplash / Mufid Majnun
Unsplash / Mufid Majnun

Past that, it does also allow students to continue to develop their skills with technology, in a world that is growing increasingly dependent on tech (he says as he types on a computer). It affords them the opportunity to problem-solve on their own, and not rely on those around them for help.

The pro's list largely ends there, however.

The Cons: Basically, Everything Else

The real reason I wanted to write this article in the first place, was to give my two cents on what I observed of a group of kids confined to hybrid learning. First and foremost, most kids turn their video chat cameras off, and unless you exist in a school system that requires them to be on, there isn't much you can do.

Unsplash / Christin Hume
Unsplash / Christin Hume

If you're able to find a student who is willing to unmute their microphone, and across twenty silent computer screens, engage with you as the teacher, you're lucky. Most teachers are forced to rely on the chat function in order to get any type of engagement.

Simply put, students who study in hybrid learning for long periods of time can be met with serious social difficulties when the students return to in-person learning. You will have to move mountains to get students to re-engage, and even then, some will still rely on their newly-found technology in order to do the bare minimum when face-to-face with their peers, and their teachers.

Attendance At New York City Public Schools Drops During Current Covid Spike
Attendance at NYC schools drops / Getty Images

Now, I completely understand and support the decision to pursue online learning right now, in order to help quell the post-holiday spike we're seeing.

That said, for future waves of COVID-19, as vaccines continue to develop, testing becomes more available and mask mandates are enacted more swiftly, if we can avoid forcing students to live life on a screen, I really, really hope we do.

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