Speak Now with Columnist Maddie Raymond: Students need a remote option

Published: 1/24/2022 1:11:13 PM
Modified: 1/24/2022 1:09:56 PM

I’m missing a physics test right now. Or, I will be soon. There’s nothing I can do about it. Yesterday I tested positive for COVID-19, something I felt was coming ever since the omicron surge started last month. I’ve been walking around school waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it finally did, I wasn’t surprised. I was, on the other hand, nervous. Not so much for the symptoms, which so far have been just about the strangest cold I’ve ever had. No, I was worried about how much content I’d miss while isolating at home. This is why schools in our area need a remote option.

Now, to reiterate things, I’m privileged. I’m white and middle class, and I’m sitting typing this in my comfortably heated room where I am isolating. There’s enough space for me to have my own bathroom to use, and eat my meals away from everyone else in my house.

But since my school is in-person only, I have to miss out on key content as I wrap up my first semester of my senior year. I’ve already missed time I could have used to work on my AP statistics project, and have no idea if I’ll be able to complete my AP government summative assessment before the deadline. What’s more pressing is that I’ve already had to miss some AP Physics, and didn’t even have an understanding of our last unit to begin with. Now I don’t know if I’ll catch up.

All of these are struggles I’m having as one of the most well-off people in the area to be infected with COVID. I can’t imagine how it must be for other students, students who were struggling even more than I was to begin with and now must miss critical time at school they needed to finish everything. They’re cut off from teachers that they badly need guidance from, and the programs they need to help them succeed. I’m not saying that we need to go completely remote again, but we need the option in place. If we are going to continue to live in this COVID world, we need structures in place to help students out when they have to isolate. This is especially true for the most marginalized.

The pandemic, and more recently the omicron surge, have exposed the enormous cracks in the social systems of the US. I could go on and on about how we need higher pay, better labor conditions, the basic necessities that other countries readily give their citizens. But I’m here to advocate for a remote learning option for my fellow students, because this affects me too. And it affects my peers. It affects my friends, who have to come into class despite having vulnerable family members just so they don’t fall behind. It affects the cafeteria staff, who have to spend all day in a crowded room full of unmasked kids. If we could at least offer up remote as an option, it would be a step in the right direction. We need schools to care about us during this time.

In New York, Chicago, Oakland, students are walking out to demand a remote option. This should tell adults something, and I know firsthand the kind of protest work our area is capable of. This area claims to be progressive, and now during the Omicron surge is one of those times when we must put action along with words. On behalf of all the students in the area, I’m asking adults to step up and protect our poor, our disabled, our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students by giving them a remote option so they can feel safe in their school environment.

I did remote learning for nearly all of my junior year last year. While it wasn’t ideal, I knew that I was safe when COVID cases spiked. I didn’t have to pick between my education and the safety of my community, the way so many local kids are right now. Believe me, I’m not excited to go back online, but the option needs to be there. Despite what the state government says, remote learning won’t take away from the schooling experience.

A hybrid option worked well in my classes last year once I came back, and it was a way to make everyone feel safe. Even once this pandemic is over, we might even consider keeping remote schooling as a permanent option, that way every student can attend school regardless of their ability to physically be there. As we grapple with the serious structural flaws that have led us to this surge, we need to implement mitigation strategies locally. Us students need to know that the adults in our lives actually care about our well-being.

Please, give us a remote option.

Columnist Maddie Raymond, who is a senior in high school, lives in the hilltowns.


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