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TIM BURKE: Isolation could have far-reaching effects on kids

Nevada school districts are grappling with the issue of how to proceed for the 2020/2021 school year.

The Clark County School District has submitted a proposal to have students attend school for face-to-face instruction two days a week and learn online three days a week.

The proposal states that students in all grade levels be divided into two cohorts, with Cohort A taking in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays and Cohort B taking classes on Thursdays and Fridays. A third option will be offered for students who wish to do distance learning full time, according to the documents.

Washoe County has recommended that elementary school students attend class Monday through Friday using a multi-layered safety and health approach, including social distancing measures.

At the high school level, a “Hybrid Learning” model will be primary. Students will be assigned to either block A or B. Each block to be in school two or three days on alternating weeks with students working independently from home on other school days.

The Nye County School District has asked for input from parents about their preferences regarding kids going back to school in the fall.

In a letter preceding a link to the survey online, the school district stated they have ideas from the state on how to move forward for the 2020-21 school year, but wants parents to chime in. The survey consisted of 10 questions, including some questions asking parents to rank their preferences for the schools’ opening.

Is all of this even necessary?

Medical News Today reports that by April 13, 2020, a total of 192 countries had ordered their schools to close as part of the global effort to control the spread of COVID-19. According to figures from UNESCO, these school closures have affected more than 1.5 billion children and young people.

An international team of scientists has recently concluded that this measure may have only a marginal effect, however, based on a systematic review of the available evidence on school closures during past epidemics.

Writing in the journal The Lancet Child &Adolescent Health, the scientists warn that the economic, educational, social, and health-related costs of closing schools may outweigh the benefits. Possible adverse effects include health care and other vital workers forced to take on extra child care duties, the transmission of the virus from children to grandparents, and threats to the welfare of vulnerable pupils.

How serious is the COVID-19 threat to our children?

According to some reports, more than four percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States have been fatal, but only about 0.2 percent of patients under the age of 17 have died.

One of the biggest problems that we have had with the coronavirus pandemic is not only a lack of information, but much of what we do get is conflicting. What information we do get is often tainted by politics and skewed to fit a particular political party’s agenda. We probably can’t say with certainty whether children attending school are at serious risk or not. There isn’t enough reliable scientific evidence.

What is certain is that schools, especially schools in rural areas, are essential to the entire community. In addition to learning, children of all ages can participate in sports, clubs, events, and a multitude of other activities.

Left at home with nothing to do is not beneficial to children of any age. As parents return to work in some industries, many households have dual-income families leaving no one at home to watch the children. Often older family members, the most vulnerable age group to get COVID-19, are left to attend to the kids.

Not allowing children to attend school affects lower-income families the hardest. Schools provide essential nutrition for children that may not get enough to eat at home. Schools also are a place where children that may be living in severe conditions can get counseling and help with basic needs.

For special needs children, schools have the resources to help those children learn and get additional help. For parents of special needs children, being able to send their children to school gives them a needed respite.

The effects of children not attending school are far-reaching and go beyond education. Socially isolating children have effects lasting beyond the pandemic.

We need to decide if allowing children to return to school and a somewhat normal life vs. the potential exposure to COVID-19 is a risk that we are willing to take or not.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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