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In a matter of weeks, millions of kids who rely on public schools will have gone a full year without stepping foot in a classroom.

Despite doctors telling us it would be safe to send kids to school, special interests fought to keep schools closed. (One Chicago teachers union board member even demanded closures as she sat poolside in Puerto Rico.)

Families with the income flexibility have enrolled their kids in private schools or have contracted out learning pods, while our most vulnerable students found themselves at the whim of leaders that put teachers’ unions desires ahead of our children.

We have now hit a breaking point and can no longer delay. It is time to open our schools now for three big reasons:

1) Failing Students: Similar patterns have emerged throughout the country – children stuck learning from behind screens are failing at unprecedented rates.

  • Grades of D and F have increased in the Los Angeles Unified School District among middle and high school students in a troubling sign of the toll that distance learning — and the coronavirus crisis — is taking on children, especially those who are members of low-income families.”
  • Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, which has been mostly online since March… found the percentage of middle school and high school students earning F’s in at least two classes jumped by 83 percent.”
  • “The average learning loss for students is 7 months if in-school instruction doesn’t resume until January 2021,” according to a report. “However, Black students may fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by more than a year.”

2) Mental Health: Children should be socializing with their peers, not learning in isolation. Now we have tangible data that shows just how detrimental this has been for their mental health.

  • Surge of student suicides pushes Las Vegas schools to reopen. Since schools shut their doors in March, an early-warning system that monitors students’ mental health episodes has sent more than 3,100 alerts to district officials, raising alarms about suicidal thoughts, possible self-harm or cries for care. By December, 18 students had taken their own lives.”
  • Mental health problems account for a growing proportion of children’s visits to hospital emergency rooms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From March, when the pandemic was declared, to October, the figure was up 31 percent for those 12 to 17 years old and 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11 compared with the same period in 2019.”

3) Well-being: Aside from their learning costs and mental health, we are seeing how virtual learning has negatively impacted other facets of childrens’ well being.

  • “The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates…About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups…”
  • Throughout the pandemic, kids’ screen time has increased by 50%. A recent study links screen time to mental health risks for students. Those at a higher risks of mental health concerns were “female students, younger students aged 18 to 24 years and students who had more than eight hours per day of screen time.”

This summer, Republicans in Washington and across the country sounded the alarm about the inadequacy of virtual learning. We warned that the learning costs for students would be disastrous and in some cases, irreparable. We also made a Commitment to America that we would fight for a quality education for every student in America, and it starts by demanding that we look out for the well being of our children.

Parents have had enough. It is time to help get our kids safely back in school.

Tags: Education