For K-12 students and parents, preparing for the fall semester is anything but normal. Instead of looking for new backpacks, notebooks, and pens, most stores comb for face covers, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.
Once again, parents get caught in the crossfire of mixed messages on the radio waves, unsure of who or what to believe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) In June it was announced that all children should return to personal fall classes for their general physical and mental wellbeing.
Then at the end of July AAP reversed his posturejust as the federal government loudly emphasized its support for the reopening of school buildings, unless there is a “substantial, uncontrolled transmission” of the virus. The AAP joined three other educational organizations Stressing that health concerns should determine when schools open, not politicians.
After the latest conflicting advice, where are students, staff and parents as the inpatient school reopens? According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey In mid-July, 55% of Americans oppose reopening public schools in their community with fall school classes, while 44% support reopening. Most respondents also advocated delaying school opening to minimize the risk of coronavirus, even if some students fall behind academically or miss other school-provided services and some parents are unable to return to work.
The KFF survey found significant differences in terms of race / ethnicity among respondents.
Parents of color are significantly more likely to worry about their child developing COVID-19 if schools reopen and lose income if they don’t reopen, compared to white parents (65% versus 41%).
Black and brown parents, compared to white respondents, were more concerned about the need for technology for online learning and that students don’t have enough to eat.
School bells may be silent in many countries this fall, but the public health alarm is ringing loud. If students get sick from coronavirus, their educational opportunities will be affected, regardless of whether classes are offered in person or online.
One recently national PTA town hall pointed out what infectious disease specialists are still learning about children’s susceptibility to the virus and important differences in age cohorts.
While we cannot control an evolving COVID science, health education professionals can educate local school officials about the critical need for health education to accompany their protocols on disinfectants, social distancing and testing.
Let’s use this educational moment to demonstrate how health education can not only help mitigate the spread of disease among students, staff, and the community, but also address the mental, social, and emotional consequences of this pandemic.
In addition, we must commit to the resources to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, including those with chronic diseases who live in poverty or have developmental problems or disabilities.
We need to ring the bell when we draw on the best of science to make local school decisions and the resources needed to support the educational achievement of all students.
Elaine Auld, MPH, CHES®
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