Let me start this letter by saying I have no solutions to the problem children, parents, educators, and the community at large are facing with the global pandemic and its impact on schooling (”Maryland teachers unions, PTA call for virtual-only start to school this fall amid coronavirus pandemic,” July 14). With that being said, I am begging someone to speak honestly about virtual learning. I only have the perspective of an elementary school parent, but I have to imagine this negatively impacts children of all levels. The communication coming out all over the country, including my local jurisdiction feels delusional. I have no alternative, but I also can’t pretend that the virtual school plans will work for our kids.

”It will be different this time” officials say. I interpret that to be more Chromebooks, more structured and supported lesson plans, and more training given to teachers on how to create a virtual lesson plan (I love you teachers, I am so sorry this is your reality too). I appreciate those efforts and wholeheartedly believe the educational system is doing the absolute best they can.

But what won’t be different is how my children react to virtual learning. It just doesn’t work for them. I can’t physically force them to stare at their devices and absorb information. In many ways this makes sense because even getting teeth brushed is a daily struggle. We’ve yelled, we’ve begged, we’ve made a game of it, we’ve changed locations in the house, we’ve tried everything we can think of. We failed.

My kids will be different this time, sure. They’re actually more traumatized than they were in March when schools closed. It’s now been 5 months without friends or even a remote feeling of normalcy.

My 8-year-old was sobbing last night because she misses playing with her friends at recess, she misses her teacher, and she is worried that everyone has forgotten her. At one point she asked me if she was even real anymore.

That’s how my child feels — abandoned, lost, like she is disappearing. And this kid has a secure living situation, two parents, food security, access to high-speed internet, access to an internet powered device, etc. As a parent, I’ve had to see this every day for the last 5 months, and every day feel crushing guilt that I can’t make any of it better.

Will some children be able to make progress through a virtual learning environment? Absolutely, I have no doubt about that. Will the majority? That I am less sure of given our own experiences. What about kids with learning disabilities, who are on the spectrum, are ESL students, are hungry, are homeless, are scared, are being abused. Virtual learning can’t support kids and families in any of those situations effectively, and that accounts for millions and millions of children.

I said I had no solutions and I don’t believe there is one. We are all suffering for the foreseeable future. In all this, won’t someone just be honest and please and say, “we are doing 100% virtual learning, and we know we are leaving millions of children behind”?

Jenny Elliott, Catonsville

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