OPINION: We Can’t Let COVID-19 Fear Stop Us from Doing What’s Best for Kids

OPINION: We Can’t Let COVID-19 Fear Stop Us from Doing What’s Best for Kids

In March, the terror of what could physically happen to my children if they contracted COVID-19 paralyzed me into blind submission. I was behind the idea of online learning, as well as socially distancing my children from their friends.

Our school district, Sweetwater County School District #1, did a tremendous job of figuring out how best to provide a productive learning environment for every child within the district. Internet was provided for those who did not have access to it, laptops and iPads were given to each and every student, and free daily lunches and breakfast were made available.

My love and admiration for my children’s teachers deepened from the incredible effort they went to in order to continue educating their students as best they could. It became blatantly obvious just how much love these teachers have for their students and for their learning. We all came together to provide the best education possible in this situation for our youth in Sweetwater County School District #1.

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Yet with all these measures in place and all this increase of unified effort, as time went on, I became more and more concerned by what I was witnessing. My fear of my children contracting COVID-19 was quickly replaced with fear of my children’s emotional and mental well-being declining and their love of learning waning. As we hide behind the idea of protecting ourselves from the Coronavirus, are we stopping and considering the price we are paying for the protection we feel we get from isolation?

I have read the recommendations the CDC has provided and am horrified of the ramifications this will have if our school district and state implement some of these concepts.

I have four children that will be attending school this coming August, including a five-year-old son who will be attending Kindergarten. The CDC recommends “closing communal use spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds if possible.” The recommendation goes on to say, “If a cafeteria or group dining room is typically used, serve meals in classrooms instead.”

As a mother who has raised more than one five-year-old, I know how absolutely vital it is for younger children to run, move, jump, scream, interact with other children, and to simply PLAY. Their development (physical, emotional, intellectual, and mental) thrives on play and movement. If we adhere to these recommendations of essentially taking away any movement of these children and incarcerating them to their desk all day, we will be strangulating their growth in all areas. But this is not the only negative effect this would have.

The CDC also stated, “Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff (all day for young children, and as much as possible for older children).” It goes on to say, “Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving other groups at the same time.”

With all these guidelines put together, what does that mean for teachers? If students are to eat their meals at their desks in their classrooms, they are not to have recess, and they are to stay with the “same staff” all day, it is the perfect storm for causing incredible stress on already stressed teachers. Students’ behavior will be negatively affected by lack of movement, and then to tell teachers they themselves can’t have a break…it’s asking too much. Happy teachers create a happy learning environment, but these will not be happy teachers; they will be overworked slaves to red tape bureaucracy.

I have a son who is on an Individual Education Plan; he receives fantastic help from multiple educators all focused on different areas in which he is delayed. What will become of these services if the recommendation of “Ensure that student and staff groupings are as static as possible by having the same group of children stay with the same staff,” is put into place?

Online learning has been less than effective even with all the valiant efforts that have been made to make it work. Going back to school but with no recess, no social interaction, meals sitting at the same desk students have been sitting at all day, and no respite for teachers is not much better.

Governor Gordon, Superintendent McGovern, I appreciate and respect the balance you have to consider. I fully believe you have our children’s best interest at heart. I understand that changes will need to be implemented and that compromise is necessary. I know that this is a serious and complicated matter, and I appreciate the effort you both have gone to to do what’s best for our children and our population as a whole. But please, ask yourselves if the pros of keeping our children away from each other outweigh the cons of fear, depression, isolation, and losing the joy of learning this situation is creating.

In my opinion, the cons far outweigh the pros. Please take my concerns (which are the same concerns as hundreds of parents and educators alike) into consideration when deciding how and when to resume school in the fall.

Erin Wall