COVID threw all of us a curve ball. We will forever be grateful for the amount of heart and hard work you have poured into our children as you have done your best for online learning under extraordinary difficult circumstances.
But the time has come -- we are ringing the alarm bells. Children are carrying the heaviest burdens of our COVID lockdowns, at risk of long-lasting psychological distress and deficiencies in their education.
King County Public Health issued an advisory due to a surge in teen suicides. CDC data show the number of ED visits by those under eighteen related to psychological distress, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts have been on an upward trajectory for months and were up by 60%, 40% and 70% respectively last October to November when compared to the numbers from the same period in 2019.
The safety net is gone. We are missing the opportunity to save children who are abused, neglected, or have undiagnosed learning disabilities. It is estimated that 100,000 cases of mistreatment of kids go unreported for each month of school closure in this country. The damage to these children cannot be reversed.
We don’t need studies to tell us what we are seeing in our homes: our children are breaking under the stress of virtual learning and social isolation.
Students need to be in school, where they can see you, ask questions, and engage their classmates.
We are in the minority keeping our children locked out of school:
Europe kept its schools open throughout lockdowns with great success. Many countries have already successfully contained 2ndor 3rd wave of the pandemic with students in school.
School districts in states where the outbreaks are more prevalent are open, including those in New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Massachusetts. Washington has the 5th lowest COVID incidence rate in the lower 48 states.
New York City reopened their schools, which is the largest district in the country, after a brief closure last November. They went a step further by offering 5 days a week in person instruction. Their data have shown that school is the safest place to be in the community for students and teachers alike.
As of last October, 115 school districts in WA were providing in-person learning to more than half of their students. 90% of Washington’s 73,000 private school students are in full or hybrid in-person learning.
Closer to home, Bellevue Christian Schools, Bear Creek School, Kings School, Emerald Heights School, Cedar Park Christian Schools, Eastside Christian School, Arena Sports, and Bellevue Boys and Girls Clubs have been open for months without COVID outbreaks. The same holds true for BSD’s own on-site learning programs including BOOST.
Both CDC director Dr. Redfield and NIAID director Dr. Fauci have publicly stated on multiple occasions that schools can safely open and they should be. Study after study shows that schools are not COVID hot spots. The risk to children from COVID is negligible. In fact, their risk of death from accidents is more than an order of magnitude higher. COVID recovery rate is estimated to be 99.98% for the age group of 20-49 and 99.5% for 50-69 based on the research data used by CDC in its COVID planning guide. Sweden, where school stayed mostly open throughout the pandemic, found that schoolteachers had an age-adjusted relative risk of 0.43, where 1 represented the average risk of occupations excluding healthcare. It is a scientific consensus that it is extremely rare for teachers to catch COVID from children in a school setting. The majority of the transmissions in school are staff-to-staff as reconfirmed by a recent WHO report.
The longer the school stays closed, the more concern we have for the quality of our education system long term. The number of students failing their courses in our district have doubled so far this school year and less than half of middle school and 1/3 of high school students said that online learning was going well in a recent district survey. Educational inequity is growing rapidly as our schools remain closed. The learning gaps our teachers will be asked to contend with will be of Grand Canyon proportions, damaging the quality of our school system for years to come.
Two thirds of K-2 families in our district have chosen hybrid learning and the percentage is even higher among those with low socioeconomic status. LWSD, MISD, and SVSD have already started or will start very soon the in-person learning option for their students. Your students are counting on you to tell union and district leaders that they deserve the same opportunity.
Heroes are made during times of crisis. Be with the children and show them why you have chosen the honorable career of being an educator -- they will have a lifetime to thank you for it. With the one-year mark for school closure rapidly approaching, let’s work together with a sense of urgency to provide the children an option to be back to what is absolutely essential: school.
Concerned Parents and BSD Community Members