US School Shutdowns Raise Concerns for Children’s Future

New York, Dec 18 (AFP/APP): Exhaustion, stress and worsening inequality: nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and most American children have not returned to classrooms, disrupting the lives of families and teachers and fueling concerns about the long-term impact on youngsters’ development.

Victoria Mendez — a cleaner of Mexican origin who lives in New York City — had hoped to see her 14-year-old son’s school reopen after Christmas, but, with infections soaring, she no longer believes it will happen.

“The situation is very stressful. He no longer studies,” says the 53-year-old, who is raising two children on her own.

When Mendez leaves for work — just three days a week after she lost her full-time job because of the pandemic — she worries whether her youngest son is in fact going online for his remote lessons. Noelle Cullimore’s son, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, lost the extra educational and psychological support he used to receive before the pandemic. He has returned to school two days a week recently, which his mother says has helped, but she still fears that his spell without in-person teaching will leave “a huge gap in his education.”

Even families whose children don’t suffer any particular difficulties worry about the effects of their prolonged absence from classrooms. The reopening of her nine-year-old daughter’s school can’t come soon enough for Amy, a well-off New Yorker. She believes that although her daughter took easily to wearing masks and attending birthday parties on Zoom children have “lost the routine of life.” Teachers seem even more tense than parents.

Maggie Mock, a teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, has only taught virtually since March for fear of catching the virus and infecting her family. Despite her 11 years of experience and dedication to her profession, the 35-year-old, a mother herself, considered resigning “multiple times.”

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