PITTSBURGH — There are pages of heartbreaking responses from a survey of senior students at Pine-Richland High School. One child said, “My parents are months behind on rent and I’ve been struggling with isolation for almost a year now.” Parents tell Channel 11 the isolation and virtual schooling has taken a huge toll on their kids and there’s no end in sight.
“My kids feel like they haven’t learned anything all year,” Amy Terchick said.
Terchick’s twins are seniors this year. She and several other parents sent out a survey to the senior class, asking them how remote and hybrid learning is going so far. 83 students participated and more than half said remote and hybrid learning is not effective. Almost all respondents said they felt disconnected from their peers. 78% said they had mental health concerns in the past year. The most common reasons given were isolation, virtual learning and the loss of extracurricular activities. The fear of COVID-19 was at the bottom of the list.
“We have kids behind the screen, have their cameras off and microphones off, and they aren’t engaged. And I feel for the teachers. It’s an impossible task what they are doing,” Terchick said.
Students also wrote anonymous comments, saying they feel socially isolated, mentally drained and less motivated. They said it is an “all work, no play” situation. They also reported missing their friends and activities and events that they can never experience once they graduate.
Here are responses from the Senior Survey document:
“We feel there are ways we can be creative and find ways for our kids to be together and socialize safely,” Terchick said.
Parents shared the survey results with the school district, hoping leaders there would consider allowing in-person classes five days a week for grades 4 through 12 along with in-person activities.
“We felt like nobody was listening to our kids to see the mental health aspects that were happening and the things our kids were feeling,” Terchick said.
Channel 11 reached out to the school district and a spokesperson sent back a statement:
“Since February 2020, our district has developed and implemented an educational program continuum model based on health/safety, learning effectiveness and flexibility. Frequent communications and comprehensive podcasts outlining this process have been shared with our community. This information is available on the Pine-Richland website. Those presentations address the questions shared with WPXI by some parents. PRSD also established a Healthcare Leadership Council of 43 members to review changing conditions and help guide decision-making. Within that council, we have 12 members of our community with expertise in public health, healthcare and other medical professions. The educational model at Pine-Richland has evolved as information and conditions have changed. Throughout this process, we have maintained a weekly connection with officials in the Allegheny County Health Department.”
At the Allegheny County Health Department’s meeting last month, director Dr. Deborah Bogen reported COVID-19 cases linked to K-12 students never exceeded 10% in the county.
So how deeply are kids affected by social isolation and what can parents do to help? Check out the full interview with a therapist from Allegheny Health Network.