Brick-and-mortar learning is the foundation of a high-quality education. While virtual learning has been a viable stopgap, and can be reasonably effective for self-motivated students and those whose parents have the ability to serve as full-time learning coaches. For the majority of students, however, virtual learning is not sustainable.
Worse still, we don’t even know the full extent of the negative effects that school shutdowns have had on our students. According to published reports, many students experienced up to a full year of learning loss when they could no longer attend brick-and-mortar schools. But that’s just scratching the surface of what students have faced as a result of the spring 2020 closures:
- Plummeting mental health. Early published reports indicate that the mental health effects on children have been devastating. Some children’s hospitals have admitted more than twice the number of pediatric patients this year, compared to previous years. Teen suicide has created a “parallel pandemic.”
- Escalating cyberbullying. While we’ve worked hard to prevent cyberbullying, one negative effect of virtual classrooms is that it’s now easier for bullies to target their victims.
- No access to special services. Special education students were hit particularly hard by shutdowns. Special services were canceled, ranging from services for students with severe disabilities to the structure needed for high-functioning autistic students in general education. As a result, many special education students regressed significantly.
- Widening gap between low-income students and their peers. Housing-insecure students and students without access to a district-issued device or reliable Internet access have struggled to complete online assignments – and will continue to struggle if they do not have access to in-person education.
These are just some of the challenges that our students faced when schools closed for in-person learning. We must keep the doors open for brick-and-mortar classes to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education, special services, and resources to improve their mental health.
As a member of the Clear Creek ISD Board of Trustees, I pledge to:
- Fight to keep schools open for brick-and-mortar learning. As of January 18, 2021, we have had 873 cumulative COVID-19 cases since August 31 – out of 32,861 brick-and-mortar students and 5,480 employees. With 80% of the district back in the classroom, the families have spoken: they want in-person education.
- Ensure CDC guidelines are followed consistently. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has approved a 10-day quarantine for those who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient (defined at less than 6 feet apart for 15 minutes or more). This guideline needs to be adopted and followed consistently within CCISD to ensure students miss as little in-person instruction as possible.
- Use science and expert recommendations to rethink safety measures. As new information continues to emerge from the scientific community, Clear Creek ISD must adapt. This may include (but is not limited to) fewer required quarantines from potential contact and relaxed masking rules, particularly for elementary students.
The science has already spoken: attending school in-person carries an extremely low risk of transmitting or contracting COVID-19. With proper precautions, there is no reason why we cannot keep our school doors open for the families that choose brick-and-mortar education.
On May 1, we can vote to base policy on facts, not fear – or we can accept the status quo, and stymie the intellectual, social, and emotional development of our children. Vote Christine Parizo for CCISD Board of Trustees, and vote to keep schools open for brick-and-mortar learning.