The Virtual Student

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SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — For many families, living rooms turned into classrooms over the past year.

Virtual learning brought up challenges including stress and anxiety. Learning from home is not something students saw coming.

“I never imagined this to happen like I couldn’t have even thought of it really,” said 7th grader Maizie Kurtz.

Virtual learning isn’t for everyone. But behind computer screens under the roof of a Luzerne County home are three siblings who learned to make it work over the past year.

“A couple weeks there were glitches, they kept saying it’s glitching it’s glitching, computers were shutting down WIFI wasn’t fast enough,” Claudine Kurtz, the children’s mother explained.

“In the beginning it was rough but now it’s easier,” said 8th grader Andy Cwiertniewicz.

“I had to like, figure out how to use like a bunch of different apps,” Maizie recalled.

After a while, Claudine Kurtz transformed her dining room into a classroom for her kids.

“And then as the weeks went by it was just getting calmer in the house, they settled in they are doing really well,” she said.

Andy, Maizie, and Nicholas attend Valley Elementary/Middle School in Sugarloaf Township. The Hazleton Area School District went fully virtual in the spring of 2020. Like many other families. It was an adjustment.

“My 14-year-old Andy, we realized that he had a little bit of attention issues sitting at the computer, he would get very stressed, he would shut down,” Claudine said.

“I didn’t realize I had such high anxiety before COVID started,” Andy told us.

Andy had to learn when to take a step back.

“Breathing and just thinking about what I could do better,” he explained.

Cheryl Benull, a school psychologist for the Hazleton Area School District says anxiety concern have been common among their students.

“Every single child right now is struggling in one way or another, maybe they are struggling mentally, maybe they’re struggling academically, maybe they can’t sit still maybe they can’t focus but they’re not alone,” said Benull.

The school district formed a mental health committee last fall to better assess issues students may be having, whether they are at home or back in the classroom.

“How connected they feel with their peers through socialization how connected they feel with their academics also their anxiety,” school psychologist Nick Flaim told us.

HASD Superintendent Brian Uplinger says they are prepared to help students academically .. and will bring in learning support staff next fall to help with those struggling.

“K-6 at this point, just helping out students that may have fallen behind that need some extra support in reading and math again just to boost them up, bring them back up to where they should be pre-pandemic again it might mean some remediation, it might mean some review and again that’s ok because everyone is in the same boat,” Uplinger said.

The Hazleton Area School District has a virtual Zen Den which provides resources to improve students’ and families’ emotional health and well-being.

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