WALL TOWNSHIP — Some parents as well as members of the board of education expressed concern that the students at Wall Intermediate School [WIS] are spending too much time in front of screens and not enough time learning in school.
Currently WIS students attend school on a hybrid schedule in which students have been split into two cohorts that alternate in-person learning at the school and virtual learning at home.
Wall’s elementary schools all attend classes in-person five days per week, and about 37 percent of Wall High School’s students have been attending classes in-person five days per week since March 1 after the opportunity was offered to them by the school.
Some parents are worried that the lack of social interaction on the WIS hybrid schedule is becoming detrimental to the mental health of students, and they asked the school board when the students will be able to return for five-day instruction.
“My sixth grader is a very bright and very social student, but at this point in the school year he still does not know most, if any, of the kids in his class. That breaks my heart,” parent Carin MacCarrick said at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, held virtually via Zoom.”And he hasn’t even seen the kids in the other cohort, where most of his friends ended up, unfortunately.
“He doesn’t want to go to school, again heartbreaking, but like most kids, he really needs school. He is a social learner. Virtually, when he’s learning he doesn’t retain the information like he doesn in school. His personality is completely different after being with his teachers.”
Ms. MacCarrick said she’s also concerned that by not moving to a five-day-per-week schedule, the students will be falling behind the other local school districts who have moved to such a schedule.
“I haven’t heard anything about WIS moving out of this hybrid schedule that just is really crippling some of our students socially emotionally and academically,” she said.
Another parent, Jacqueline Mason, said that the amount of screen time that the students receive through online learning is also negatively impacting students.
“What’s going on at home, it really should be addressed. The increased amount of screen time that these kids are getting is becoming so detrimental,” Ms. Mason said, noting that her child’s eyesight has worsened as a result.
“Not being able to concentrate, sleep deprived, way too much video games – the teachers are teaching, are trying their best. They’re doing a wonderful job but the kids are not learning and retaining,” she said. “I just want a little emphasis to be placed on decreasing screen time.”
“You could tell I’m a little bit emotional because we’re 13 months in and we have children at home that are really struggling. We need to really focus on them and get them back in school and being mentally, physically, socially and emotionally healthy.”
Superintendent Tracy Handerhan explained that the district follows the direction of the Monmouth County Health Department in Freehold, but “Providing the students more in-person instruction is an absolute priority.”
“Principals are working with their building-level pandemic response teams, making various preparations [for student return],” she said.
One reason for the delay is the school’s upcoming spring break, which with increased travel in and out of the district could result in another outbreak. However, she said, the break also allows more and more of the district’s staff to be vaccinated since the school’s recent partnership with the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey.
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