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Students say hybrid learning taking a toll on emotional health

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Vermont students continue to attend school through a hybrid model, with in-person classes some days and remote learning on others. But how has this affected students’ mental and emotional health? We spoke with some who say schools aren’t adequately addressing students’ feelings of isolation and anxiety.

“Remote learning has amplified a lot of mental health problems in not just me, but other people,” said Carmela Symula, an 11th grader at Essex High School, who spends three days a week in-person. She says logging onto Zoom over and over and staring at a screen for four hours takes a lot out of everyone. “For me, I get headaches and I know other kids too get so exhausted they just stay in their bed on zooms all day because there is really no point to them, it feels like.” Symula thought being back part-time would help, but it has been challenging because it’s difficult to build strong relationships with teachers and other students.

“It’s hard,” said Avery Richardson, a 7th grader at Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington. “I haven’t made any new friends this school year online because how are you going to do it?” she said.

Richardson says she only sees 10 kids in her pod, out of over 100 in her entire grade and the lack of socialization is making kids feel isolated and alone. “When you’re not doing well mentally, I know I don’t care about my school work, I don’t care about learning, I don’t care about attendance or showing up to class and making any friends. So, I don’t know why the school expects education to come first and then anything else next,” she said.

Melissa Solomon, a counselor at Rutland Intermediate School, says being with peers is important and kids need that interaction. She says that will be especially true this summer as things begin to open up. “Having their children go to camps, or participate in school programs so that they can still work on the socialization,” she said.

Solomon says parents need to be relaxed and non-judgmental if they want kids to open up. “They will let you know, and if you discount what they’re saying, like, ‘No, you’re not sad,’ or ‘No, you like school,’ it’s not really listening to them,” she said.

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