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Officials concerned over long-term effects of virtual learning

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BATON ROUGE - There are about 11,000 students who are learning virtually, or a combination of in-person and virtual, in East Baton Rouge Parish. As COVID-19 restrictions ease, parents and teachers are trying to plan for school to get back to normal.

Until that happens, there's a concern over the gap between students who have been in the classroom and those who have stayed virtual. Senator Bill Cassidy put a federal focus on the issue Tuesday.

"The Centers for Disease Control have been saying for months, schools should be reopened," Cassidy said.

Inside the library of Liberty Magnet High School, Cassidy took questions from students to learn more from whom he calls the future of this country. His concern is about the gap in the last year of learning.

"They're our future," he said. "If you miss a year preparing for your future, we're all affected."

Liberty High junior Devin Knight was in virtual learning for a few months before coming back to class. He said it was a lot harder to focus while learning virtually, and the inconsistency has taken its toll.

"Many students at this school and others in EBR are failing or close to failing due to the inconsistent environment, switching back and forth between hybrid and virtual and full school," Knight said.

Tuesday, Knight asked the senator about how those students who might be struggling with virtual learning can be helped through federal grants and other programs. Cassidy says some of that grant money has already been used to purchase computers and WiFi, but some of it can be used for after-school tutoring programs or summer school.

"One thing he said is next year we're hoping to move much more in-person, and I do think that would be a big factor in helping failing students," Knight said.

Cassidy said the money needs to get to the right places to help. The senator hopes to learn more about what concerns students and teachers have now and moving forward.


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