Back to School

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For most of modern U.S. history, school is one of the most consistent parts of society.

Young people need to get an education, and there’s very little that can disrupt that important process. Even during world wars, school went on. So when the pandemic caused the education sector to go remote, a whole new era began — an era dominated by Wi-Fi, Zoom, Google Classroom, and virtual education from kindergarten to doctoral dissertations.

In 2021, in-person classes resumed for many. Despite the lingering COVID-19 situation, many were happy to return to educational settings — especially considering the difficulties of virtual learning.

David Guerra is a grade school educator from Edinburg who has watched his profession and the students he guides change over time.

“I’m happy to be back in the classroom, especially with the STARR exam up in the air,” he said. “It’s definitely easier to teach to actual faces and bodies rather than names on a screen.”

As most of us who resorted to online meetings know all too well, it can be difficult to get engagement while people are in the comfort of their homes.

With students, this is compounded because social skills are learned at school and were put under a microscope as that time was lost to health precautions.

One of the challenges is the emotional and social gap for students who spent nearly two years and parts of three school years in an awkward virtual limbo.

“In many ways, seventh-graders are still fifth-graders,” Guerra said. “That’s no one specific group’s fault. They were just out of school for two years.”

Many districts are involved in assisting vaccine efforts. With shots now available for children as young as 5 years old, peace of mind is available by the vial.

Guerra believes that as students resume normality slowly but surely, things will return to normal.

“I think the kids will bounce back,” he said. “The more time they spend in school as far as social skills, they’ll catch up.”

There is big talk nationwide about a potential “learning gap” that students in the age of COVID will face. Since the world is still recovering from the pandemic’s effects while addressing ongoing variants, it’s difficult to tell the long-lasting impact.

Guerra is glad that the “no pass, no play” rule is effective so that students wishing to participate in sports or the arts still need to maintain a passing grade in each class.

“At the very least, they’re earning a 70 if they want to participate in activities,” he said.

In addition to academic work, extracurricular activities are a crucial part of the true return to normality for the thousands of RGV students who re-entered the educational setting.

UIL athletics like football and basketball are back in full swing, as are academic events like mock trials, masterminds, and more.

As these events become more commonplace and shots get into the arms of more people, the light at the tunnel gets a little brighter as we get closer to the COVID crisis being a thing of the past.

Nathaniel Mata