How Covid-19 Has Impacted Boarding Schools
Parents of young children and teens in the United States faced many distressing changes in school attendance during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. With closures of public schools nationwide, parents or caretakers now must monitor their children’s online classes at home, often while working online at home themselves. And together, parents and students experience social isolation and a greater dependence on their phones and computers in order to stay connected to their schools, friends, and communities.
Boarding schools across the nation also faced shutdowns, due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. Many residential boarding students were sent home, and able only to continue academic classes online. At many of these schools, parents were required to continue paying tuition fees, although the student remained isolated back at home.
With the Covid-19 lockdowns, and in-person learning shifting to online classes only, how has this affected parents and their school-aged children socially, intellectually, and more? Isolation, and lack of access to friends, teachers and school counselors has apparently caused an increase in suicide attempts for young students.
“Significantly higher rates of suicide-related behaviors appear to have corresponded with times when COVID-19 stressors and community responses (e.g., stay-at-home orders and school closures) were heightened, indicating that youth experienced elevated distress during these periods, according to “Suicide Ideation and Attempts in a Pediatric Emergency Department Before and During COVID-19” (Hill RM, et al. Pediatrics. Dec. 16, 2020).” 1
“Researchers analyzed electronic health record data from 18,247 youths presenting for any complaint to a large pediatric emergency department (ED). Of the 12,827 youths who completed a suicide risk screening, 59% were female and the mean age was 14.5 years.” 1
“Many experts say that the stringent social distancing measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 have significantly worsened teen mental health. Because teenagers are social by nature and developmentally reliant on their peers, the pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues…” 2
“According to CDC data, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24. The effects of isolation are heightening this trend. The closure of schools and other social meeting spots youth normally frequent has forced students to stay confined to their homes, increasing the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts for people of this age group.” 2
“Parents are realizing that it might be time to consider boarding schools as a way to slowly and calmly open the door to the future. It’s possible that, at least for the next few years, boarding schools can begin the development of social pragmatics and more.” 3
Boarding schools offer a long list of options for social growth, and academic achievement during these changing times affected by Covid-19 rules and regulations. At many boarding schools–including therapeutic schools for troubled youth—average class size is around 10 – 12 and student-centered. Teachers adapt classwork around the interest of students, which stimulates discussion. And faculty, and staff are often available to students beyond the classroom, serving as teachers, coaches and dorm parents who can listen and helps students resolve academic and social problems.
Walking with dorm friends and being able to talk while they enjoy a meal can reduce stress, and also adds social time with friends. Plus, attending clubs and activities on-campus, and trying new things or new sports, opens the door to positive emotional and social growth that will benefit students now, and later in life in their vocations and careers.
But with many boarding schools creatively adapting to hosting classes in-person and setting up safe ‘closed campuses’ with staff and students living on-campus, able to access activities, meals and study groups, families now have a better option for education and socialization of teens.
“Many boarding schools are opening in the fall of 2020. They are following state and local guidelines…creating pods/families/groups in dorms. Boarding Schools, like small colleges around the United States, are creating closed campuses.” 4
“Pre-pandemic, private school enrollment had been on a slow decline. Currently, roughly 50.8 million students are enrolled in public schools, compared to just 5.8 million students in private schools, according to the Department of Education.” 4
“Families may be able to send their children to school in person, alleviating the burden on parents and, in many cases, allowing them to go to work or pursue employment opportunities from home.” 4
If your family wants to consider enrollment at a private, or therapeutic boarding school, you are not alone. As you search for the best options for your young student, please take a look at these websites for more information: