Denielle Cazzolla: The end of another odd school year

It certainly has been another odd school year.

Although my kids were full-time in-person most of the year, it was quite different. 

Yes, I still had to rush them out the door to get them in time for the first bell (which they did do better than last year, pre-COVID, I think). And they still had to make sure that they had their bookbags, but they also had to make sure they remembered their masks.

They didn’t object to mask wearing. Sure it was uncomfortable, but they understood why it was being done, and were willing to do their part. If anything, my daughter wore her mask more often than required.

The first I heard of a possible change in mask policy was a text from my son last Friday. I really didn’t look into it that closely, because I figured my kids would still wear their masks because they aren’t fully vaccinated yet. (They each got the first dose that day.) At first glance, I also assumed the move was for the next school year.

Well, it wasn’t, and before Monday came around, the policy was rolled back. Masks would still be required inside.

I’m not sure why a change was even brought up this close to the end of the school year. Most high school classes were over in New York as of Friday, with only end-of-the-year testing left. Why didn’t the state just wait until the school year was over and make the change for summer programs? I don’t think most parents and students would have been up in arms about continuing the same in-classroom policy until the end of the year — until there was a possibility that it was going to change.

All it did was confuse everyone involved

But considering what a confusing year it was, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

My kids were lucky. Their school year, for the most part, was consistent. They were interrupted by a stretch of remote learning (in part because of a whole-school shutdown, and in part being quarantined because of COVID).

My daughter, thankfully, only was remote for about two weeks. My son, on the other hand, was out five. And I could notice a difference in their grades. My daughter’s two weeks were mostly non-instructional. She wasn’t feeling well for the first week, and by the second week, she felt she was so far behind, and still wasn’t feeling well, she couldn’t make it to her remote classes. My son did better, but he said the experience was far less helpful than in-person lessons.

I could see a decline in their grades in that short period.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see that state Education Department studies found that students have experienced a “significant adverse impact” when they spent less time in classrooms during the pandemic.

Education officials cited one study that found students in some grade levels fell behind by nearly a full year in their level of achievement in math.

I can see why it would be so bad for other families whose school year wasn’t consistent.

Hands-on programs also had to adapt, or be skipped all together for remote learners.

I was happy to see my son get into drivers’ ed this year. Great, I thought. my husband and I won’t have to teach him to drive. Well, we were wrong. He was able to take the class, but there was no behind-the-wheel experience this year because of COVID restrictions. We were responsible for his behind-the-wheel time. 

By the time next school year comes around, I am hopeful that we will have taught him well and he will have his license so he can be the one rushing himself and his sister out the door to get them to school before the first bell, and the only thing they will have to worry about remembering is their backpacks.

Denielle Cazzolla is editor of The Daily Star. She can be reached at 607-441-7259 or dcazzolla@thedailystar.com. Follow her @DS_DenielleC on Twitter.

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