Early Childhood Virtual and Hybrid Learning With Social Emotional Learning: A Phenomenological Research Study




Ashworth, Katrina D.

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The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020. With it, came a range of concerns, panic, and scrambling for "quick fixes," as families learned to navigate rapid and sometimes confusing pandemic changes. Thirty million Americans were under- or uninsured at the start of the pandemic, so both preventive measures and access to care were valid concerns (Gaffney et al., 2020). According to former assistant surgeon general Dr. Schuchat (2020) from the national COVID-19 Response Team, documented cases jumped from fourteen in late February 2020 to over 790,000 by the end of April 2020. Immediate changes were recommended, such as limited mass gatherings, restricted visitor access in public settings, reduced travel, and closure of public-space (Schuchat, 2020). Social, educational, and economic environments also changed dramatically with higher caseloads. Many states declared states of emergency with closures of restaurants, bars, public spaces, and schools (Adolph et al., 2021). Everyday folks were expected to social distance, wear protective gear, and limit social gatherings. Early reports also stressed the importance of quarantining, mandatory airport screenings, and symptom monitoring (Schuchat, 2020). Unemployment rates spiked during the early pandemic months. In April 2020, the U.S. saw a record-high unemployment rate of 14.8%, with more than 6,000,000 people filing for unemployment benefits (Tang et al., 2022). Drastic changes in the educationally system ensued. With school closures, families quarantined at home, and educational leaders scrambling to adjust. Many schools were forced to shift to virtual learning. Moving online created other challenges for families, including access to technology (such as devices, internet services, etc.) and childcare, and the overall mental health and wellbeing of children attending online school (Anderson et al., 2021). Like other states, Texas had to adapt. However, as one of the most underinsured states among non-elderly adults, healthcare costs and statewide unemployment rates had an outsized impact (Gaffney et al., 2020). Socially distancing, wearing personal protective equipment, and ensuring that sanitation supplies remained stocked were also economic and social concerns at the state level. On March 19, 2020, Governor Abbott signed an executive order that temporarily shuttered restaurants, bars, and gyms. By May 2020, the state started to reopen of bars and gyms to 25% capacity; by June 2020, restaurant and other businesses were allowed to open to 50% capacity (McClure & Wowk, 2022). Educationally, the state focused on access to school meal programs, high burnout and turnover rates among staff, and transitioning students to online learning with eventually some hybrid learning approaches in place. Enrollment numbers dropped, programs were forced to close, and families struggled with access to technology, childcare, and overall work and household responsibilities (Crawford et al., 2021).



COVID-19, Early Childhood Education, Social Emotional Learning



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies