By Kenny Choi

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – The debate over whether distance learning is the right answer to start off the new academic year in San Francisco, many parts of the Bay Area, and across the country is only intensifying with back-to-school just around the corner.

“I’m a fourth grade teacher and it’s stressful. It’s extremely stressful to provide remote instruction because I know it doesn’t work,” said SFUSD Board President Mark Sanchez.

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As teachers and students grapple with the new reality, parents like Gene Oh are balancing work and homeschooling. But there’s concern children will lose vital scholastic and social skills that simply can’t be taught through a screen.

“All of these intangible benefits I feel offset the cost to the health implications and the spread of the disease,” said Oh.

“It’s hard on them. They feel bad about it quite often and the families struggle because it’s really frustrating for parents who are often times trying to work and trying to help the kids learn,” said UCSF pediatrician Dr. Naomi Bardach.

Record-breaking numbers in new COVID-19 cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations in many parts of California are leaving districts like Fremont with a difficult decision.

“We want to make sure that all safety considerations are taken care of before any child steps foot on campus,” said Victoria Birbeck-Herrera, president of the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association

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“Our hope is when science and data allows that we will be able to ramp up in person education,” said school board president Sanchez.

Pediatricians are also noticing negative side-effects of isolation and distance learning.

“It’s particularly around issues like mental health. I’ve seen it in my patient population, seen it in friends, and our own personal family. It’s really hard to watch kids suffer from the social isolation and loss in educational opportunities,” said Dr. Bardach.

“I know I have to do better. Our teachers and parent educators will do better but the psychological aspect for the entire community has to be taken into account,” said Sanchez.

San Francisco public schools are scheduled to start online August 17.

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Many private schools in the Bay Area are planning to reopen with students arriving on campus starting next month.