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Michael Petrilli

Half-Time High School May Be Just What Students Need

For older students, the virus will change how the school day is structured. It’s about time.   

Signs of what’s to come.

Signs of what’s to come.

Photographer: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Bloomberg Opinion will be running a series of features by our columnists that consider the long-term consequences of the crisis. This column is part of a package on transformations in the way in which education is structured and delivered. For more, see Clara Ferreira Marques on the promise of online learning.  

The shutdown of America’s high schools has deprived millions of students of rites we previously took for granted. Coursework can be transferred online to some degree, but no virtual environment can replace football games, choir concerts, musicals and so much more that’s part of the American high school experience. We may continue to yearn for such things well into the autumn, especially in communities that face additional closures, and where public officials want students and educators to stay “socially distant” even when at school. Say goodbye to Friday Night Lights.

Yet while there’s much to rue about what the pandemic has taken away, it’s possible to glimpse a future in which technology liberates high school students — or at least some of them — from the six or seven-hour school day that has been crushing teenage souls for generationsThat’s worth celebrating because so much of the school day amounts to wasted time.