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Schools: The New Normal | Experts Say Constant Remote Learning Is Forcing Teens To Be Adults Before They're Ready

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As schools continue to navigate hybrid, remote, and in-person learning, much of the focus has been on the younger students.

Now, some high school students say they feel like the forgotten children.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez found out Tuesday, it's taking a physical and mental toll.

Diana Vacca of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn has been remote learning, having not stepped foot in Professional Performing Arts High School in Manhattan since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

"I feel overwhelmed and like really stressed," the 15-year-old said.

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She's so stressed, she said she lost eight pounds, which is a serious concern for her mother, Cynthia Vacca.

"Emotionally, I know it has been difficult for her to kind of navigate how to self instruct because in reality the teachers are just giving them material and she's gotta actually teach herself," Cynthia Vacca said.


Many high school students are navigating their education and sometimes helping younger siblings at home, often alone, while parents work.

This, while school districts prioritize providing resources and in-person learning to less-capable younger children.

"I think that that's what we're missing the point with high schoolers, that they're children, too. They're not adults yet," Cynthia Vacca said.

"Even high school needs a lot of help and ... I just feel that we're not always getting the help that we need," Diana Vacca added.

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Shoshana Brown is a social worker for New York City public schools, where she says high schoolers have been further traumatized due to in-person learning halted indefinitely.

"So, it's really really upsetting as a school social worker where I'm working with students who are facing depression, suicidal ideation," Brown said.

"I think we're underestimating the damage it has to them socially and developmentally," child psychiatrist Jodi Gold added.

Gold said the pandemic has led to the "adultifying" of high school students, who need relationships with their peers.

"But now we've taken away their peer group. So now we're asking them to navigate more on their own and we're giving them less social support," Gold said.


Gold said teachers, counselors and parents can help by checking in with students and asking specific questions about how they're doing and feeling, by making sure students are getting sleep, and by trying to facilitate social connections with virtual get-togethers or group projects.

Even if it means more screen time.

Gold said something as simple as moving your child and their laptop out of the isolation of their bedroom and into a family room for a few minutes can help boost their spirits, too.

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