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Students getting an education in virtual learning

Classes begin for Natchez Adams School District students today and it will be a year like no other.

Faced with a choice of attending in-person classes or online-only courses, 80% of the district’s parents chose online-only courses for their children.

Not surprising given the devastation brought on by COVID-19.

Sure, the schools can screen people entering school buildings with a series of questions and taking temperatures, etc., but that is no guarantee people spreading the disease won’t enter the building.

One of the most insidious aspects of COVID-19 is that infected people can be spreading the disease to other people for weeks before they even exhibit any symptoms of the disease.

That’s why mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and not touching your face are such important tools to prevent the spread of the disease.

You can practice all of those precautions and drastically cut the chances of spreading COVID-19 within the schools but there is no guarantee.

Then an infected student could bring the disease home and spread it for weeks before anyone knows the child is infected.

Most parents are aware of these aspects of how COVID-19 is spread and chose to have their children attend online only classes.

That’s good news for the 20% of students who will be attending in-person classes two days per week, since fewer students will be gathering in the school buildings.

With 10% of students in classrooms on any given school day, that should leave adequate room for social distancing and hopefully, teachers will enforce mask wearing, and promote distancing and hand-washing.

Every student now, however, must rely on technology to get his or her education. Thankfully, most children now days are tech-savvy enough to know how to utilize the internet, smartphones and tablets.

Hopefully, those skills will serve them well in the virtual classrooms. Hopefully, the teachers are also equally as skilled in utilizing the technology.

Just about everyone has become more proficient in using technology such as Facetime, Skype, Zoom or Webex over the past six months of the pandemic, for meetings, whether for business or for get-togethers with friends and family.

Just utilizing the technology will be an educational experience for students, parents and teachers.

Like it or not, this pandemic has amped up our online lives and the effects are likely to be lasting.
That could be a good thing under the right circumstances. However, virtual experiences can never replace the real interaction of in-person face-to-face meetings whether for educational and business purposes of for meetings with friends and family members.

Utilizing the virtual platforms under the right circumstances, however, can make our world smaller and facilitate meetings and communication exchanges in a much more efficient way than hopping on a jet and traveling half a continent away just to have a business meeting.

If a silver lining is to be found in the COVID-19 pandemic, that might just be it — utilizing technology to save time and money and to facilitate a more open exchange of information.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.