July 28th, 2020
As more and more schools unfortunately change course towards complete online learning let us not forget the downstream risks likely to occur based on this decision. The AAP, CDC and Dr. Fauci have not recommended in person schooling by accident. The AAP and the CDC have come down hard on being in school. Why? School is the life blood of children's social, emotional and for many nutritional growth. The disparities that currently exist between the well to do and the poor are set to dramatically widen based on this online decision and this sets up a cascade of negativity for these children for their entire lives.
If the online learning is substandard for the poorest and most needy among the children, they will be 1 to 2 years behind their more affluent peers that have access to quality wifi, environments and nourishment. This is not a small problem.
We need to understand first and foremost that SARS2/COVID19 is here to stay for all intents and purposes. We are likely to have the same issues in 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months related to COVID unless a vaccine or quality medicine reduces the risk of death. Dr. Fauci had this to say a few days ago. "
"I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine, which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get, I think when we put all three of those together, we will get control of this, whether it's this year or next year. I'm not certain," he said. But, he added, "I don't really see us eradicating it."
Being aware of these highly likely realities, are we willing to settle on distance learning for a long time knowing that the downstream risks are high for the underprivileged?
The fact that teachers are reluctant to go back to the classroom is perfectly understandable. Fear is a major driver of decision making. I, as many of my healthcare colleagues, feel similarly every time there is a major disease outbreak. Yet, we signed up to be care givers, risks and all. We don't get to pick when we step up for the neediest and most unfortunate among us. I know that this is not a popular opinion among teachers and for that I am sorry. As pediatricians, we care for the whole child, mind and body and based on that reality we all feel strongly that they need to be in school, especially K-6 graders who are learning foundational material.
I hope that the schools rapidly adapt to the new norm of COVID19 and provide a safe working environment that keeps all children and teachers as safe as is possible in a pandemic and focuses on their growth mentally and physically in person in school.