August 29, 2021

Nancy Bailey: 14 Reasons Why It Might STILL Be Dangerous to Open School Buildings

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Nancy Bailey looks at some of the issues schools are facing (or refusing to face) as schools open. Reposted with permission.

For parents and educators, many concerns still surround the virus and sending children back into school buildings.

1. It Seems Like The Virus Should Be Over—It’s Not! 

This summer looked like the end of the pandemic was in sight, especially if vaccinated. But now the Delta variant swirls around children, teachers, and staff inside schools.

No matter how educators and those working on building maintenance try to make facilities safe, schooling involves bringing together large groups of people, including unvaccinated children.

How safe it is is anyone’s guess.

2. The Delta Variant and Russian Roulette 

With the Delta variant, over 4.4 million children have tested positive. The AP reported on August 19 that over 400 U.S. children have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported more than 121,000 cases in the week ending Aug. 12.

Pediatricians worry about the effects of this virus recognizing that the Delta variant is twice as infectious as what children faced a year ago.

Last week, two children in Central Virginia died from COVID-19, and several children from Memphis also succumbed to the disease.

3. Lacking Consensus About Covid-19 Mitigation Efforts

At the start of the pandemic, adults wouldn’t agree on recommendations surrounding Covid-19. With the Delta variant and a rise in hospitalizations in children, they still can’t come together!

Wearing masks is one way to protect unvaccinated children and possibly keep schools open, but instead of working to make schools safe, adults act out at school board meetings and argue on Twitter. Some political leaders have been irresponsible, using the virus to further a dangerous agenda.

And what happened to social distancing? It has always been difficult, but some classes sound overcrowded.

So how can teachers protect children brought together in the classroom? If cases continue to increase will school buildings close?

4. Students With Disabilities Are Especially Vulnerable

In Texas and Florida, parents of students with disabilities are suing the governors for banning mask mandates in school districts claiming they’re violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union just filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of disability rights groups and parents of children with disabilities over a South Carolina law that bans school districts from requiring face masks. They argue that the ban excludes vulnerable students from public schools.

5. Sports and Longterm Covid Effects on Children

There’s never been a clear understanding of the long-term effects of Covid-19 on children who get the disease. It’s not just a case of the flu.

The AAP states that children who have had Covid-19 should be screened before playing sports. See here for the full report.

Children and teens with no symptoms or mild symptoms of COVID-19, and no symptoms of MIS-C need to be screened for heart symptoms. The doctor will ask about any chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, or fainting, for example. A child with a positive heart screening will need an EKG and referral to a pediatric cardiologist for possible additional cardiac tests.

6. School Nurses Are Overworked and There Aren’t Enough of Them

School nurses are critical, especially during a pandemic. But school districts have skimped on hiring school nurses for years. Back in January, alarm bells rang due to a serious school nurse shortage.

Now, schools with school nurses find themselves in a moral quandary in places like Florida and Texas. They know what they should do to keep children safe, but they do not have the tools to do their jobs effectively and have governors and parents at odds with what they know is safe.

7. Who’s Supporting Teachers? 

It’s hard to teach when you feel responsible for keeping students safe, and you have to face classrooms or school conditions recognizably unsafe. Where do teachers turn to get help in their classrooms?  Who’s listening to their concerns?

8. Fear of Learning Loss Drives School Reopenings

Parents have been inundated with reports from nonprofits and companies that sell instructional programs that children have fallen woefully behind in school. There’s no real proof of this. Most children continued working remotely with their teachers and may not be behind.

Students shouldn’t have to risk getting sick to learn.

9. School Districts Denying Parents Remote Learning

Some school districts in Massachusetts are denying parents the option of remote learning. School districts should ensure that all students have access to remote learning with the child’s teachers from school.

Without this provision, parents might feel forced to send children to school when it is unsafe. Or, if they keep their child home, they might purchase shoddy online education programs they see advertised on television and online.

10. How Do Students Feel About School and the Delta Variant?

It’s tough to learn when you’re anxious. How do students feel about returning to the buildings? Are they nervous about the Delta variant? Are there enough counselors to help them? Does anyone ask them about their concerns?

11. Riding on School Buses

A study last year involving an independent school in Virginia indicated that if children wore masks and the school bus windows were open, transportation appeared safe, albeit chilly in the winter.

But the controversy about wearing masks also affects school bus riding. Twenty bus drivers in Lee County, Florida, recently quit since children weren’t wearing masks. When there are flimsy protocols workers, feel unsafe, and parents worry about their children.

12. Questions Remain About School Ventilation 

Teachers have different reports about their school ventilation. Some still have windows that are painted shut, or they have fixed window closures. Others work in schools that have made minimal changes to HVAC systems. Most teachers don’t feel enough safety improvements have been made to their schools.

13. Will the Flu and the Delta Variant Tango?

Concerns surfaced last year about the flu and Covid-19 together, and fortunately, didn’t seem to be as problematic as feared. Still, the flu kills children every year, and the Delta variant seems to be more infectious for children. More children require hospitalization. How will these two illnesses come together in children later during the fall and winter?

14. Unclear School Rules About the Virus 

Because there’s so much strife about masks, and the CDC changes guidelines, many school districts have unclear rules about the virus.

These are only some of the worries surrounding the reopening of school buildings. How can the country come together about this disease to better keep students safe?

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