A new survey highlights the adverse effects that remote learning had on many children in the past year that has been the coronavirus pandemic. 

A survey of more than 32,000 caregivers of youth in Chicago Public Schools found that nearly a quarter of children were described by their caregivers as “stressed, anxious, angry or agitated” when the deadly disease shuttered in-person learning and Zoom became the country’s collective new classroom. 

The survey, conducted by Children’s Hospital of Chicago and published recently in JAMA Network Open, was completed on behalf of nearly 50,000 children in various levels of education, ranging from Pre-K to 12th grade. The survey took place from mid-June to July 15, 2020. 

The survey also found that about a third of youth were described by their caregivers as “lonely,” while only one-third were described as “having positive social and peer relationships” during the year of remote learning, per a news release on the findings. 

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“Across the board, caregivers reported significantly worse psychological well-being after school closures as compared to before,” they found. 

The survey also found that Black and Latino participants were disproportionately affected by these stressors. 

“Caregivers are reporting that the pandemic and school closures have taken a substantial emotional toll on their children and adolescents,” said lead author Tali Raviv, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Center for Childhood Resilience and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement. 

“Greater public attention to youth mental health issues during this time can help appropriately allocate resources and inform policies to support the well-being of students as schools begin to reopen” added Raviv. 

The findings are in line with other research on the topic of how remote learning has negatively impacted students since the start of the pandemic, namely on those of color. A report from December, for example, estimated that by the end of last year, the pandemic would likely cause U.S. students, on average, to lose some five to nine months of learning. 

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Co-senior author Kenneth Fox, M.D., from the Chicago Public Schools, spoke to how the survey highlighted the ways schools provide “fundamental needs” to children, and how these fundamentals were impacted when learning went remote. 

“The pandemic revealed to all what we’ve long known is true: schools are important community hubs that meet fundamental needs like access to food, health and mental health supports and services, as well as other kinds of protection,” said Fox. “While schools continue to meet those needs, we think they will also serve as sites of community healing where public health strategies and systems can converge and align to serve families in innovative ways. This convergence may be a powerful way to address the increased mental health needs the pandemic has wrought among our students, especially those from Black and Latinx communities, to ensure equitable access to support and care.”

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