Worrying about the academic backslide known as the COVID slide, as well as tremendous public health issues that vulnerable children face, experts with Johns Hopkins School of Education and Bloomberg’s School of Public Health say there is an urgent need to reopen K-12 schools in America this fall.
Dr. Christopher Morphew is the Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Education and Dr. Josh Sharftein Is the Vice Dean of Bloomberg’s School of Public Health. Together with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they made the case for America’s K-12 public schools to reopen in the fall.
Their conversation detailed options and plans that would be required to safely reopen schools, but focused on the urgent need to reopen them due to academic backslide and issues vulnerable children face like decreased access to health care and hunger.
Interview: The Whys And Hows To Reopen Schools In Fall
The interview was based on the paper Dr. Morphew and Dr. Sharfstein recently published in JAMA, where they wrote that while the closing of K-12 schools has likely helped the country avoid a medical catastrophe that the COVID-19 pandemic sparked, there is a long-casting shadow to that action. They specifically are concerned about the more than 20 million American children who rely on school breakfasts and lunches for food, and millions of children have lost access to health services that are school-based.
Their paper laid out a six-point plan that would guide leaders on how to safely consider reopening schools in the fall, and prioritized access to on-site education for young children and children who have barriers to remote learning. Additionally, they believed prioritization should also be given to children who receive nutritional support or special education from the schools.
One of the most important steps the researchers outlined was working toward driving the spread of COVID-19 down during the summer, and building a strong public health operating response in the fall. This includes rigorous testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation as needed. As parents and teachers are likely to demand closures of schools again in the fall and winter if community spread spikes, there needs to be a plan, the doctors conclude.
Some of the highlights of the interview that address keys to successful school reopenings in the fall are as follows:
- Prioritizing on-site education for vulnerable children: special needs, health, food, barriers to remote learning.
- Establishing social distancing protocols in every school.
- Linking curricula, remote learning technologies and opportunities and teaching strategies.
- Preparing strong school-based public health and environmental responses (to include on-site screening).
- Respecting the concerns of families and teachers and assisting as best able.
These experts recognize that any school opening, including ones using their recommendations, will need substantial personnel and resources to implement. Their hope is that Congress recognizes the urgent need to make the sufficient funds available and gets them to school communities as quickly as possible.
In their paper, they write that there is more danger than just the short-term concern for the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s in the legacy effects on children.
Considering we’re already concerned with mental health impact, we absolutely agree.