Over the past year and a half of different learning models within American school systems, studies have demonstrated changes in the mental health of grade school and college students. Oftentimes, these changes align with the medium by which method of learning is taking place, whether it be virtually or in-person.
Psychiatrists can connect negative changes in mental health accompanying virtual learning with a lack of a set schedule, as well as social interaction and relationships.
A nationwide study entitled “Teaching in 2020,” conducted in 2020 though Loyola University Chicago, found that 46 percent of teachers reported encountering student mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, academic stress, trauma and grief more often than before the pandemic.
The majority of these teachers (55 percent) reported handling these student wellness issues themselves, sometimes at the burden of their own mental health.
Within Tewksbury, many parents have taken to social media in order to advocate for their childrens’ needs. While the common agreement tends to be that in-person learning is preferred, justification and general reasoning tends to vary.
Some parents are focused on primarily ensuring a permanent return to in-person learning by following any recommended COVID protocols, such as masking or vaccinating. They reason that this would be worth it, in order to prevent any potential outbreaks threatening to bring back a long-term return to online learning.
However, others have argued that following any COVID protocols, even recommendations from local and national health professionals, have been detrimental to their children’s mental health. They push for a return to pre-pandemic conditions, with many protesting against continued masking and other COVID protocols.
When speaking to students, the overwhelming conclusion after a school year of hybrid/remote learning is a preference for in-person learning.
“I’m not stuck in one place in my house for hours and hours a day,” said Shawsheen Tech sophomore Ariana Walker. “I need to be able to interact and communicate with other students.”
Students have also observed positive changes in their mental health since returning to the physical classroom.
“My mental health is much better when learning in person,” said Tewksbury Memorial High School sophomore Sam Festa. “When I’m at home for too long, my mental health spirals downwards.”
Currently, the Tewksbury Public School system is operating fully in person, in compliance with the state’s mask mandate for schools under an 80 percent vaccinated threshold.