The Case For & Against School Re-opening in Texas | Questioning the Pros and Cons | Texoma Family

school reopening during covid

Some parents already have their minds made up about sending their children back to school in person or to do school online at home.

But I’m one of those parents who is still trying to figure out what is best.

Maybe you are like me and like to weigh all the pros and cons? If so, keep reading.

Listening to both sides of the discussion is my own personal approach to ponder the various aspects concerning school reopening, so this post is not in any way written trying to convince someone in either direction.

However, I have to admit that I have a heightened level of concern about the problems Covid causes because of my brother’s experience and how it impacted our whole family. And that is probably why I’m not automatically jumping on board with sending my kiddos back to school without really thinking it through.

{one of our make-shift homework areas during the school shutdown}

There are valid arguments from both viewpoints, and I’m caught in between.

I have one child in elementary school. One in middle school. One in high school. 100% of my kids want to get back to school. I think they’re sick of me.

During any other summer, we’d be taking adventurous trips and exploring museums. But this is 2020, so our summertime experience is different.

They’ve never been more ready to get back to school!!

{my kids keep writing messages to me on our light box}

I have some serious questions and concerns that really haven’t been adequately addressed. Media reports are typically presented from a persuasion motive, so I have so many questions that I’m trying to sort through and understand within my post that I”m writing about:

American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Learning Deficits
  • Abuse
  • Mental Health

Science

  • Transmission mortality rates in children
  • How other countries have reopened their schools

So here are all the factors/opinions/concerns/arguments (plus links) that I am considering while trying to decide what’s best for my own kids (note: I’m labeling the arguments as PRO/CON for lack of better terminology):

AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS

Let’s start with the reasons that American Academy of Pediatrics gives for going back to school:

Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.

AAP

ISSUE: LEARNING DEFICITS

learning sight words

PRO: It makes sense that it is “difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits” through online learning.

I would think that this is especially true with younger kids who are learning basic math and reading skills.

Early identification and intervention is critical to helping kids and it’s hard to know all the inputs, distractions, supports in place at home vs. in a classroom where the teacher is able to observe the child and recognize when they’re struggling in real time.

CON: For older kids, early identification and supports should have already been put into place if the school is on top of things. Also, depending on the age/IEP/accommodations for the child, receiving the support in person may not be as critical for an older child.

Many accommodations can be accomplished more easily in a less restrictive environment like home.

Hopefully parents are aware of and familiar with their child’s accommodations so that they can re-create them at home. And if a parent isn’t fully familiar with the accommodations or how to help their child at home, now is a great time to get some first hand insight to their child’s needs, including how hard/easy it is to deliver the accommodations.

Perhaps this would result in parents being more understanding about the reality of how difficult or realistic it is to provide certain accommodations AND learning how effective the accommodations are or aren’t.

ISSUE: ABUSE

PRO: School is a safety net for children who are abused, and school is also where most instances of abuse are identified.

I’m heartbroken thinking about all the kids who have been trapped at home with any type of abuser for the past few months. So, yes, I agree that getting them back into school will help the children who are enduring abuse.

Apparently thousands of students across the United States didn’t participate in online learning while schools were shut down in the Spring. I’m wondering if those same students may be the ones whom the parents want to “hide” from schools? Or is it a matter of lack of parental support? Or lack of technology? Or was the parent sick? Or did their phone/internet get cut off due to financial problems?

One day I was talking with my child’s teacher to clarify something about the online work, and I told her I was afraid we might have overlooked an assignment. The teacher said that there are a few children she was concerned about because the parents weren’t involved, but my child isn’t one of the ones she was concerned about. (whew!)

While that’s great news for my child, I’m wondering how the other kids will learn and retain anything new if a teacher isn’t right in front of them helping them make connections and providing oversight?

CON: Since most schools here in Texas are offering parents the choice of online learning or physically attending school, I’m really wondering if abusive parents would actually choose to let their child attend school?

It seems like they would want the child to be hidden from teachers so that the abuse can remain hidden as well. So if schools are giving abusive parents an option to keep abused children home, then that kind of defeats one purpose for reopening schools, right?

ISSUE: MENTAL HEALTH

PRO: One of the arguments for kids returning to school is that school is good for their mental health.

A study on the NIH website seems to back that up with their conclusion that: “Children and adolescents are probably more likely to experience high rates of depression and probably anxiety during and after enforced isolation ends.”

I imagine that a child’s personality and if they have siblings plays a role.

I’ve heard parents stating that their children have definitely been impacted emotionally because they cannot be around their friends like they usually can. I’ve also heard parents stating that their children are doing just fine during this.

If a child is a social butterfly and gets his/her energy from being around others, then of course their limited options for socializing is going to drive them nuts. That makes perfect sense.

Personally, I think this is great news that a concern for mental health is suddenly a reason for kids returning to school.

Perhaps it means that more schools will look at a child’s undesirable behavior from a mental health perspective instead of a punitive perspective?

Does this emphasis on mental health mean that schools will start providing connection to mental health services as opposed to immediately sending kids to the principal’s office for punishment? I hope so!

CON: Have our kids REALLY been in isolation? Have they truly not seen any friends or family or society or other human beings during this whole pandemic? Maybe they were in total isolation for a few weeks while everything was shut down.

But that ended.

coronavirus weekend planning
{I think THIS is the type of ISOLATION experts are referring to when discussing concerns about the impact isolation has on children}

I see soooo many people taking their kids on vacations (albeit closer to home than usual), weekend getaways, and visits with grandparents/other relatives.

While we’ve all likely been limiting physical social interactions, my own kiddos have been invited to birthday parties, family parties and play dates, so I know those types of traditional social gatherings are happening to some degree.

And does talking to friends and family via technology help kids with their mental health? Has anyone done a study on that?

While we all “know” that kids are better off mentally in school instead of in isolation, we need to remember:

Kids are no longer in isolation.

If anything, their interactions with other kids have probably been more healthy and less dramatic than at school because their exposure to bullying is decreased.

Because bullying used to be a big problem at school, and we all know that bullying has mental health consequences.

According to the StopBullying.gov website, 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying happen in school. 62% of school staff witness bullying two or more times in a month, with 41% witnessing bullying once a week or more.

So, maybe Covid-19 has solved the problem of in person bullying?

NIH offers some very interesting insight to adolescent suicide risk factors in general. So far, I cannot put my finger on any US specific data about this specific topic for youth as a whole.

However, I did come across an interesting report about how the lock down impacted kids in China. The study found that “22.6% of students reported having depressive symptoms.” Apparently that’s higher than usual for them.

{my kids have had a sarcastic sense of humor throughout this pandemic…yet another message they wrote to me on the light box!}

I’m not sure that it’s an apples to apples comparison for how the mental health of children in China corresponds to American children during the lock-down.

So many other variables can impact families and how well the children do during a lock-down (such as Western vs. Chinese parenting styles, living in communist country vs. a freedom loving country, etc). But that’s the only study pertaining to children’s mental health during lock-down that I can put my fingers on at this moment in time.

And then there are the arguments FOR reopening schools based on science. So much confusion and the many opinions pertaining to this pandemic has caused us to become aware of the science behind the decisions.

THE SCIENCE

ISSUE: CHILDREN DO NOT GET THE VIRUS AND TRANSMIT IT LIKE ADULTS AND KIDS HAVE A LOW MORTALITY RATE

child in hospital

PRO: Multiple studies indicate that kids are not the superspreaders that we assume they are. This is reassuring! There are some schools in the U.S. that finished the school year in person, which I find intriguing. We all know that kids are germy, but perhaps there is something special about this virus that makes the kid germ factory obsolete?

I was watching an interview with Dr. Birx in which she mentioned a study from South Korea is the best source we have that gives a good indication that kids under the age of 10 don’t transmit the virus as much as those who are older.

If we make a decision based solely on this data, then it makes complete sense to have our younger kiddos in school.

CON: The real test for transmission in children in the United States hasn’t fully happened yet. During lockdown, kids were home. Very few people dragged their kids to the grocery store. Since our towns have opened back up, it’s been Summertime, so the kids haven’t been in a classroom surrounded by large groups other children for hours upon hours daily.

We have no US studies to reference for knowing with any amount of certainty that the kids really won’t spread this.

What we DO know about kids getting ill from the virus is that Florida has had a little over 28,000 kids test positive, with 280 children in Florida hospitalized with Covid-19.

That calculates to 1% of children being sick enough to be hospitalized. If Florida’s numbers end up being an accurate reflection of the percentage of children who end up very ill from the virus, then that isn’t good news for Texas.

With roughly 5 million public school students in Texas, 1% of our Texas school children equals 50,000 in the hospital.

Typically 5-20% of children get the flu each year, with under 200 pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. 2018-2019 flu season.

With that number in mind, if 10% of our school children contract the virus, then that means 5,000 of our kiddos in Texas will end up hospitalized with it.

ISSUE: OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE REOPENED SCHOOLS

PRO: Other countries have successfully reopened their schools, so this is a reason to open U.S. schools. Looking at the results that those countries have had is promising and reassuring.

Here’s an interesting article about how Finland and Sweden reopened their schools.

CON: With the growing number of positive Covid-19 cases in Texas and the fact that other countries seem to have gotten their numbers under control, is it really an apples to apples comparison to say that because they did it with success, then we will have the same results?

One German study that I learned about from various sources is being used as evidence that kids need to be in school because it shows that outbreaks are not as common as we would think. On the surface, those results are encouraging; I’m going to be watching that study as it unfolds over time because:

  • These are the “Phase 1” results, which establishes a baseline. Phase 1 was conducted right when their schools reopened.
  • The researchers state one purpose for the study is to determine “how its spread changes over time.”
  • The study was conducted in Saxony, which has a lower case rate than the rest of Germany.
  • The entire country of Germany has had an underwhelming amount of Covid-19 cases compared to the State of Texas. Germany’s population is approximately 2.86 the amount of Texas’s population. So, even when we DON’T adjust Texas’s numbers to match Germany’s population for an equal comparison, what’s going on in Texas right now faaaaaaarrrrrrr exceeds what was happening with Germany when this study was done. On Germany’s worst day ever, they never had more than 6,200 new cases per day.
  • So it’s another study that is not apples to apples. I wish a country that has numbers comparable to Texas would release their study results just so our Texas kiddos aren’t the first to participate in such a study!

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that Texas is about to find out what does and doesn’t work.

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