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[OPINION] Give the Choice of Education to Families, Not Politicians

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Families and teachers know what’s best for them, give them the choice between online and traditional school.

I recently learned I will not be allowed to return to my college campus this upcoming fall semester. A devastating culmination to a bitter freshman year.

Leaving college for Spring Break with only a backpack, I, as did most students, felt entirely confident I would be returning in two weeks time. Instead, I received a message that I would have to stay home for an additional two weeks.

I was excited! Two extra weeks of no classes, family time, and sleeping in.

Except those two weeks turned into a month. And then to three months.

I finished my freshman year experience living on Zoom. Gone were the clubs and dances and friends and sports and trips. Gone were the libraries and gyms and dining halls. I spent my days watching recorded lectures, drudging through virtual meetings, and trying to maintain some kind of scheduled social relationship with friends.

Often, I would spend nine hours at a time sitting at my computer in Zoom calls. Every week, my attention diminished, my motivation dried up, and my grades slipped. I finished the semester mentally exhausted, and disappointed about the lost time and experiences.

And to make things worse, my entire dorm room, with my wardrobe, textbooks, instruments, and everything else I had brought to college, laid in tantalizing wait back on campus, halfway across the country.

I still have not received my belongings. Five months later.

The hope of returning to campus in the fall was what I relied upon to help get me through the semester. The hope of some sense of normalcy. And to have that taken away, to not have been given a choice on the matter, was quite a blow.

People deserve the right to choose the future of their education.

In Orange County Public Schools, the debate is roaring on how, when, and in what capacity schools can reopen. I think the answer is pretty obvious, and suggesting anything else  complicates an already stressful and unwanted situation.

It is a simple decision to make. OCPS and Florida already have the capabilities for traditional and virtual school, let students and teachers decide strictly between the two.

Let all who wish to return to a normal full time school schedule be allowed to. There are countless reasons why a return to traditional school is a great solution.

For one, students need the consistency of a classroom setting. Teachers need an actual environment to teach in. Infection and transmission rates for children and young teenagers are incredibly low. Schools provide jobs for not only teachers, but administration, janitors, lunch ladies and police officers. Students want and need the social bonds and experiences school provides.

And maybe most importantly, sending kids back to school will allow parents to go back to work full time, giving lifeblood to our croaking economy.

Of course, safety is a priority, and a school may decide whether and how strictly it will enforce masks and social distancing rules in an attempt to be as safe as possible. But those decisions should be made at the school level, where input from parents and faculty are most direct. At the end of the day, anyone who chooses to return to school understands the risks associated, and is willing to take them.

Or…

Let all who are worried about the coronavirus, who are especially prone, or who prefer an online education, feel free to enroll in Orange County Virtual School or Florida Virtual School full time. These are systems already equipped with full online curricula, qualified teachers, and a history of success.

Any teachers, especially the elderly or sick, who don’t feel comfortable teaching in the classroom, should be allowed to transition to OCVS or FLVS in a quick and timely manner.

This option works great for a lot of people, and should be encouraged to those who can afford and successfully commit to it. However, many minorities and impoverished families simply can’t afford this kind of sacrifice. To force online education, as many school districts around the nation are doing, would be a kind of discrimination in and of itself.

And what should definitely not be discussed is a kind of mixed curriculum, with children splitting time between school and home, and between online and in person learning styles. First, talk about the scheduling nightmare for parents who have to find child care for the days children are at home. Secondly, teachers will find it incredibly challenging to develop a consistent and effective curriculum when they have students all over the place, sometimes with them, sometimes with their parents, some online and others in the classroom.

Not only is there not enough time to develop any sort of effective plan of action, but it would make the school year substantially harder for students, parents, and teachers.

If the desire of OCPS and all schools is to do what’s best for the child, it’s in the children’s, parent’s, and teacher’s best interest to be given a clear choice on their education. Let each and every family decide what is right for them, not government agencies and district school boards dictating what can and will be done, as we have seen colleges do.

Coronavirus has already taken a lot from us. Let people, not politicians, weigh the risks and rewards of their decisions concerning their education.

I didn’t get to choose, I hope you all can.

____________________________________

Marcos Barrios is a Florida National News contributing writer and college student. The avid writer and musician is passionate about politics and entertainment in Florida and abroad.

3 comments

  1. Maria Reply

    You have made a very good argument for going back to school and giving the choice to the parents. However, there is something out there that we know very little about and has the potential to kill many people and it doesn’t discriminate. I believe that exercise in caution is advisable….
    I enjoy reading your column Mr. Barrios. Looking forward to the next one. Keep up the good work.

    Your number one fan.

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