Delegate Keith Hodges, during Virginia’s Special General Assembly Session convened in August 2020, introduced legislation (HB 5095) requesting the Department of Health to develop criteria for assessing the long-term impact of distance learning on students and to collect, and make available, that data and information to help legislators, agencies and school divisions make informed decisions regarding in-person education versus virtual learning during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The children of our Commonwealth and the district I serve are our future,” Hodges said. “While I understand the health needs and tough decisions our school districts and school boards are having to make amid this COVID-19 crisis in real time, we must start looking to the future and what the long-term impacts will be on students.”
Among Hodges’ concerns include the disparity between students who have access to broadband and those who do not, students who have parents who continue to work full time during the pandemic and don’t have the same personal attention to their studies as others, the loss of socialization lessons from keeping students apart, and the mental health impact on young people.
Hodges’ bill specifically requests that the Department of Health work in cooperation with the Department of Education and representatives of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other appropriate stakeholders to develop specific criteria for assessing the long-term impact of distance learning on students.
“We would like to see the Department of Health complete its work and make such criteria available on a website maintained by the Department of Health by November 30 of this year,” Hodges said. “This will give the community access to this vital information in the same way that we are all given access to the impact of the virus itself.”
Hodges hopes that with this data every school board in the Commonwealth will consider the criteria for assessing the long-term impact of distance learning on students and the data and information collected will help support any future decisions made about when to open schools for in-person education during the COVID-19 public health emergency.