We can't wait until fall to fully reopen our schools: Miller/McClain
By Reps. Carol Miller and Lisa McClain
American families realize that remote learning for our children and grandchildren is not satisfactory or beneficial for the student or teacher. They’re ready to move on.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) anticipates all schools will be fully in person and no longer remote by September, regardless of whether children are vaccinated or not.
As a nation, we need to have a bigger discussion about the immediate future.
Districts and states across the country should be talking about the appropriate action to remediate students’ lack of time in the classroom. We must help students readjust and reacclimate to put them in the strongest possible position to return to class this fall. The consideration of summer school should be part of the dialogue.
Bringing students back to school is following the best available science. According to the CDC, COVID-19 transmissions and outbreaks are rare in K-12 education. Further, with vaccines being widely distributed, now is the time for kids to return to the classroom for in-person learning.
The unspoken danger of these lockdowns has caused many problems – social isolation, family stress, anxiety about the virus, and a rise in substance abuse, and parental abuse and neglect, which result in mental health issues. Surveys by organizations like the Brookings Institution and McKinsey show deteriorating academic performance and diminishing lifetime earnings due to COVID-related learning losses.
An increasing share of children being seen in hospital emergency rooms during the pandemic are for mental health reasons. Harvard University researchers, who have been following 224 children ages 7 to 15 between November 2020 and January of 2021, found that about two-thirds of them had clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression. A similar number had behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and inattention, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Even more concerning, in Nevada, we saw at least 18 students take their own lives as a result of the pandemic. Across the United States, other issues such as eating disorders also appear to be increasing. If we truly care about our children, we cannot continue on this path.
In West Virginia, the governor and Board of Education have followed the science and empowered schools to return safely to in-person instruction. When the state saw increases in confirmed cases in our public schools, Governor Justice said, “If the problem is bad enough that we think – really and truly – we need to close a school, we’re going to close a school. That’s just all there is to it.”
Many schools in Michigan have struggled to remain open during this school year. In mid-March, Port Huron public schools shut down in-person learning and shifted to remote learning for six weeks as COVID cases spiked in the local area. This occurred even though there were not any major outbreaks related to the schools.
The CDC says more than 80% of all K-12 teachers, school staff, and child-care workers had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of early April. We’re at a point where teachers and staff – including bus drivers – can get vaccinated if they choose. Our goal should be a total return to normalcy. It’s what is best for the health of our students and their futures.
We need to realize many of our children will struggle academically as well as socially as they get back to where they are supposed to be – the classroom. Parents and teachers can work together to help students develop structured routines, exercise, and reduce their screen time. We can also remind them they’re not alone, either at home or with other students across the globe. In doing so, our children and grandchildren will be prepared to take on the next school year in person.
Getting America’s children back into the classroom is not only a needed investment in their futures, but also an investment in our country’s workforce and economic recovery. Throughout the pandemic, mothers and fathers have put their careers on hold so they can stay home and help their children through virtual learning. It’s time we open classrooms fully to give parents the freedom to re-enter the workforce and contribute to America’s economic recovery. Our next generation, our economy, and our way of life depend on it.
Congresswoman Carol Miller represents West Virginia’s Third District and serves on the House Ways and Means Committee. Congresswoman Lisa McClain represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District and serves on the House Education and Labor Committee & Armed Services Committee.
Photo credit (classroom): Washington Post