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COVID-19 has created a challenge for everyone, completely flipping lives upside down and changing the way that one approaches everything. It is clear to see that it has cast a dark shadow over the past year, and destroyed any semblance of a normal routine.

At this point in the pandemic, the evidence is clear enough to say that life isn’t normal right now. Try as we might to ignore the strife or continue our daily activities, there is no hiding from the fact that things are different. However, in schools all across the state, students are being force-fed the concept that the school year will move forward as usual.

There will be no exception on grades, testing, attendance, or any other aspect of the education system. However, isn’t it hypocritical to force teachers and students to pretend things are fine, when nothing about the 2020-2021 school year has been the same as previous years?

Students are behind. Not specifically in work, but in content. This comes from being in and out of school numerous times, as well as trying to keep up a normal pace through a computer screen. When it comes to cutting teachers and students alike a break, it is important to acknowledge some key points about the current situation.

It is certainly easy to just ask for no grades to matter this year, but this presents more issues. Some students are lost on work, not of their own volition, but because they cannot access their work or virtual school conferences.

West Virginia is a very rural state, with numerous areas that lack internet access. There are also families who are not financially stable enough to afford internet at their homes. Schools across the state have combated this by creating designated locations where students can travel to connect to the internet. Even with this system in place, there are still students who have no way to reach these places.

Should students who have not had access to their work be punished for not completing it? Even with schools back in session, can they be expected to work twice as hard as normal to even attempt to catch up?

It is cruel to punish those who have been lost by no fault of their own. On the other side of things, there are many students, of all ages, who have just chosen not to complete their work. They have internet access, and some of them even attend in-person school, yet are failing multiple subjects. In some cases, this is simply because they refuse to complete the assignments given to them. Should they be let off the hook, after barely working at all? Additionally, there are some students who are completely overwhelmed with their workload, and are trying their best to do the work, but may still be considered behind. Doesn’t their effort mean something?

Consider the children who have been working, consistently and furiously, this entire time. The kids who don’t want their futures to be jeopardized by the influence of a pandemic. If grades were completely thrown away, their work would be for nothing, and it sends a message to all children that they do not have to put effort into school anymore. That is certainly not a good idea to be enforced in their minds.

When it comes to the matter of testing, all categories have put out a similar message. Whether it is standardized testing, Advanced Placement assessments, or simple semester finals, teachers are all being pushed to keep standards the same as usual, while institutions such as CollegeBoard, that work with Advanced Placement students, have stated from the beginning that their tests would not be altered or simplified, in terms of content. It presents a situation of irony.

The end of the 2019-2020 school year was only partially disturbed by COVID-19, and yet testing was canceled or significantly altered across the country. Now, in a school year that has not been consistent or regular at all, there will be no exceptions or changes. This is especially comedic when one considers that teachers and students alike have stated they are behind where they would be in class content in comparison to a normal year. The constant feeling of always being behind schedule is placing a lot of pressure on the shoulders of educators who are trying to keep their students afloat, and makes numerous children feel like they are drowning in content.

It might be true that most classes will cover all the required content, but it is fair to say that with the shortened time span used to cover each topic, unit, lesson, etc., many students are struggling to retain the information given to them. When it comes time for tests to begin, it is almost guaranteed that West Virginia test scores are going to greatly suffer.

Throwing away the efforts made so far this year is not the correct solution for the problems that everyone is facing, but it is also faulty to act as if this school year is just like any other. Furthermore, students who are just refusing to work should not be let off without some kind of repercussions, and the students who are putting in the effort — no matter the letter they receive on a piece of paper — should receive compensation for their work.

We constantly see adults in both real life and the media venting their frustrations with the pandemic and how it has affected their workplace, income, home life and more. It is time to consider the pressure that is being put on students, and analyze the damage it is going to create in the long run.

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