4 years since COVID: Adapting to changes in post-pandemic world

ALABAMA/MISSISSIPPI (WCBI) – On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. On March 15, states began to implement shutdowns to prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. James Martin at Baptist Golden Triangle said much of this came from the fear of the unknown.

“People didn’t know what to do about the masking, what to do about the social distancing, should they get the vaccine or what treatments were available,” Martin said.

Education was particularly hard hit. Shutdowns evolved into virtual and hybrid models with students learning from home.

Four years later, those students returned to campus. However, some of the changes to education have remained.

Shawn McDaniel, the Principal at Pickens County College and Career Center said there was some learning loss, but things are improving.

“We are recovering from the academic achievement gap,” McDaniel said. “We are probably three to four months behind on students but were implementing through after-school programs. Of course, the COVID relief money has allowed us to hire people to come into our school system to work hands-on with our students to help them learn. Chronic absenteeism has been an issue just getting kids back to school.”

It also led schools to address struggles that came from the isolation that accompanied the pandemic and situations at home.

“We’ve had to reach out and get mental health workers and individuals involved for our students,” McDaniel said.

One of the biggest changes that students had to adapt to was using technology for virtual learning. That turned out to be a positive because it helped them learn skills used in business and industry today.

“Being in a rural school district, you still had a lot of ways you used paper and pencil. Now, we’re using more electronics in our classrooms,” McDaniel said.

Dana Holifield is an instructor at the Pickens County College and Career Center. She has seen some positive impacts from the pandemic, including the use of technology for instruction, and the efforts to get devices into the hands of all students.

“They have learned so much about using a computer, using Google Classroom, using Canvas, I have a lot of Bevill State students at my current job,” Holifield said. “I think they will be at such an advantage going to college because it is the way we are trending. ”

Even with the advances in technology, Holifield said the time away taught us something else.

“It has proven that a computer, a device, a platform cannot take the place of a teacher and get that human interaction,” Holifield said. “We’re able to remediate and of course help with the social, and emotional needs. I feel just being back in class, being together, has healed many of those hurts.”

Martin said even though things have returned to normal, it’s still important to practice hygiene and protect the elderly and most vulnerable from getting sick.

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