'Will our kids be alright?' Academic panel examines effect of pandemic on kids

Three University of Waterloo professors will look at the effect the pandemic has had on child development, in a lecture titled "Will our kids be alright?" on Tuesday night.

Pandemic may widen achievement gaps between students, says professor

Having spent almost 6 months out of school could drag down a student's literacy and numeracy skills, according to Janice Aurini. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

Absences from school brought on by the pandemic could further widen achievement gaps between wealthy and lower-income students, according to a University of Waterloo professor. 

Janice Aurini, professor of sociology at UW, is one of three panelists speaking at a university-sponsored lecture Tuesday night put on by the Kitchener Public Library.

The lectured titled "Will our kids be alright?" focuses on the effects the pandemic has had on student learning and development.

Aurini compares the time students have taken away from school due to COVID-19 with usual summer vacations. When they return to class after a normal summer break there are disparities in what knowledge been retained, she says, and that disparity usually falls along socioeconomic lines.

Summer backslide, but worse

According to Aurini the gap is made wider because some students actually progress over the summer break, leaving those whose knowledge stays the same or slides backward even further behind.

"We know that those kids are behind their more advantaged peers by two to five months, and that's just a summer vacation," she said.

"Unless something magic happened in the spring," it's likely that pandemic school absences have exacerbated the issue, Aurini said. 

Psychology professor Dillon Browne is also a panellist. He says he will touch on the topic of increased screen time and the influences of COVID-19 on family resilience.

More information about the lecture is available on the Kitchener Public Library website


  • An earlier version of this story gave the wrong date for the panel. It is being held Tuesday, Aug. 25.
    Aug 24, 2020 11:59 AM ET


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