The 2020-2021 school year version of COVID-19 seemed to have little impact on students. That is not to say students were not testing positive, but rather that the majority of schools that opened did not see the spread that was feared. This school year’s version of COVID-19 has presented higher spread rates among students. We have carefully designed protocols in place because the physical health of our students has been and will continue to be a top priority. Equally significant, however, is the emotional and academic health of our children.
Over the last ten years, there has been a documented rise in teenage mental health issues such as depression, self-harm, suicide, increased school shootings, and so on. The use of phones and social media has been connected to many of these issues over the same time period. Compounding the already challenging problem is that separation and isolation resulting from COVID-19 may lead to an increase of these issues. What if having students only in school online or in isolation due to quarantine and alone in front of a screen all day, is exacerbating the problem that already exists?
Students were created in the image of God to be relational beings.
To isolate them and keep them apart is counter-nature.
Academic impacts related to COVID-19 are also coming to light. Many students are unable to grow academically without the opportunity to learn in person. Even with the opportunity to attend school in person, measures such as spacing students as far away as possible from one another or enforcing universal masking for students and teachers can have a significant impact on the overall academic environment. HHCA is committed to providing students a safe environment where they can grow and thrive in their academic pursuits.
The reason I mention all three of these impacts is because there has been little discussion about the consequences of the latter two.
The lack of consideration for the long-term consequences of the emotional and academic health of students impacted by this pandemic is like watching a storm on the horizon of the ocean rolling towards the shore.
At some point, schools will have to think beyond the immediate physical impact of this seemingly endless pandemic. Inevitably, the emotional and academic impacts must be acknowledged and addressed.
While Social Emotional Learning (SEL) instruction and initiatives have grown more prevalent in schools, there is a limit to its effectiveness if not rooted in a proper understanding of the relational nature of students being made in the image of God.
HHCA is committed to creating a community in which students can thrive in their physical health as well as in their emotional and spiritual growth and academic pursuits. In a short visit to campus or a school-sponsored event, one can quickly feel that our students have a renewed sense of pride in their school. The overwhelming need for community is evident in our students' daily interactions now more than ever.
My prayer for HHCA is that we will continue to move forward with boldness and wisdom, with the whole nature of our students at the forefront of all that we do.
Thank you for your partnership as we walk through this school year together. May God be glorified in and through HHCA!