Allow Colorado K-12 students a full-time, in-classroom education this Fall

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Decisions are being made this week (May 18-22, 2020) that will impact Colorado K-12 classroom setting this Fall.  Join us in getting kids back in the classroom environment where they thrive and adequate learning takes place.  The goal of this petition is to advocate for Colorado K-12 students by asking Governor Jared Polis to remove restrictions that will prevent students from returning to a full-time, in-classroom education in Fall 2020.  

Representing this petition are a group of politically diverse parents, educators, caretakers and invested community members across Colorado. Most distance learning models this Spring 2020 were adequate in the short-term and we appreciate the diligence of teachers and administrators in quickly creating these models.  However, after an entire quarter of distance learning, we’ve learned that continuing a distance or hybrid option in Fall 2020 will be detrimental to a generation of Coloradans. Therefore, as constituents in the state of Colorado, we are asking for restrictions to be removed so that Colorado K-12 students will be afforded a full-time, in-classroom education in Fall 2020. That being said, we understand that precautions are necessary and should take place.  Reasonable measures such as good hygiene practices, support for students who stay home when ill, and physical distancing and/or use of PPE when possible should be implemented.

Jefferson County Public Schools has already released their draft plan for Fall 2020 that includes a hybrid of distance learning and one day/week in-classroom instruction. Schools face tough choices this fall as health mandates limit classrooms to 10 people

We oppose plans that include distance learning based on these concerns:

1. Mental Health and Physical Health/Safety

2. Academic Effectiveness and Healthy Brain Development

3. Exacerbated Inequalities and Economic Loss

Mental Health and Physical Health/Safety: concerns surrounding distance learning or hybrid models

a.       Mental Health

      i.      Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, is one of the nation's most prominent pediatricians. Christakis, who directs the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital, is the editor-in-chief of the journal JAMA Pediatrics (JAMA = The Journal of the American Medical Association). In a new piece titled School Reopening – The Pandemic Issue That Is Not Getting Its Due published in the journal on May 13, 2020, he argues that the risks to children's learning, social-emotional development and mental health need to be better balanced with the risks of spreading the coronavirus.

     ii.      In an article titled With School Buildings Closed, Children's Mental Health Is Suffering published by NPR on May 14, 2020, Christakis is quoted as saying:  The social-emotional needs of children to connect with other children in real time and space, whether it's for physical activity, unstructured play or structured play, this is immensely important for young children in particular.

     iii.      Appearing in JAMA Pediatrics on April 14, 2020, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Mental Health for Children and Adolescents by Ezra Golberstein; PhD; Hefei Wen; PhD; Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD:  Most mental health disorders begin in childhood, making it essential that mental health needs are identified early and treated during this sensitive time in child development. If untreated, mental health problems can lead to many negative health and social outcomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic may worsen existing mental health problems and lead to more cases among children and adolescents because of the unique combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession. Economic downturns are associated with increased mental health problems for youth that may be affected by the ways that economic downturns affect adult unemployment, adult mental health, and child maltreatment. Furthermore, among adolescents who received any mental health services during 2012 to 2015, 35% received their mental health services exclusively from school settings. School closures will be especially disruptive for the mental health services of that group. It is important to also understand that school closures will be relatively more disruptive for the mental health care of some youths. Adolescents in racial and ethnic minority groups, with lower family income, or with public health insurance were disproportionately likely to receive mental health services exclusively from school settings.

 

b.       Physical Health/Safety

     i.            Cameron Rosenthal, MD and Lindsay Thompson, MD, MS  published an article in JAMA Pediatrics on May 7, 2020 titled Child Abuse Awareness Month During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic.  In it, the authors state the following: Social isolation, the public health measure now in place across the world, is also a proven risk factor for child abuse. Other risks include stress, uncertain access to food and housing, and worries about making ends meet. Owing to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that parents and caregivers feel overwhelmed with these stresses. They may be experiencing job loss, childcare struggles, and schedule changes.  With schools and daycare centers closed for weeks or more, children are no longer in the watchful eyes of their community. Teachers, counselors, extended family, and friends who routinely see children are now physically separated and unable to provide the same social and emotional support. Many school or community programs that prevent child abuse are currently on hold. The vital social distancing that attempts to flatten the curve for COVID-19 hinders these prevention efforts.  Research shows that all types of child abuse increase during school holidays and summer breaks and worsen during natural disasters such as hurricanes. We expect that throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, when emotions are running high and children are more socially isolated than ever, child abuse will surge. Much of this abuse will be unreported.

     ii.            In an article titled With School Buildings Closed, Children’s Mental Health Is Suffering published by NPR on May 14, 2020, Christakis is quoted as saying:  With schools closed and activities canceled, adults who are mandatory reporters, such as teachers, are less likely to catch wind of abuse or neglect. Hospitals around the country are reporting a rise in admissions for severe child abuse injuries and even deaths — a rise that coincides with lockdown orders. And a sex-abuse hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reported that half its calls in March came from minors, for the first time in its history.

Academic Effectiveness and Healthy Brain Development : concerns surrounding distance learning or hybrid models

a.       Academic Effectiveness

     i.      Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics on May 13, 2020 titled School Reopening-The Pandemic Issue That Is Not Getting It’s Due.  In it, he states the following: The phenomenon of summer learning loss has been well established, with children losing a mean of 1 to 3 months in varying subjects. Some estimate that there will be a 9-month to 12-month loss when children return to school in the fall, and this will only be compounded if distance learning continues. No credible scientist, learning expert, teacher, or parent believes that children aged 5 to 10 years can meaningfully engage in online learning without considerable parental involvement, which many families with low incomes are unable to provide because parents must work outside the home.

b.       Healthy Brain Development

     i.      Also appearing in JAMA Pediatrics, original investigation Associations Between Screen-Based Media Use and Brain White Matter Integrity in Preschool-Aged Children by authors John S. Hutton, MS, MD; Jonathan Dudley, PhD; Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, PhD; Tom DeWitt, MD and Scott K. Holland, PhD find that extended screen time, which is consistent with total or hybrid remote learning models, found: an association between increased screen-based media use and lower microstructural integrity of brain white matter tracts supporting language and emergent literacy skills in prekindergarten children. 

Exacerbated Inequalities and Economic Loss: concerns surrounding distance learning or hybrid models

a.       Exacerbated Inequalities

     i.      JAMA Pediatrics article School Closure During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic An Effective Intervention at the Global Level? written by Susanna Esposito, MD, and Nicola Principi, MD argues the following: Moreover, school closure can cause risks of deepening social, economic, and health inequities, particularly in limited-income countries. In the countries where the Ebola epidemic took place in 2014 to 2016, school closure was associated with increased child labor, violence, and socioeconomic problems. Finally, the distance learning through digital technologies that has been planned by several countries to replace traditional school can be difficult to implement even in some industrialized countries. In Italy, a 2015 survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics showed that in the poorest areas of the country, 41% of the households did not have a tablet or a personal computer and that among families with at least 1 child, only 14.3% could guarantee distance learning. This means that a relevant group of children may remain substantially excluded not only from learning but also from any form of socialization with peers and with the surrounding world. All these limitations explain why some experts suggest that the potential advantages of school closure, if any, have to be balanced against the secondary adverse effects.


     ii.      JAMA Pediatrics article Low-Income Children and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US written by Danielle Dooley, MD, MPhil; Asad Bandealy, MD, MPH; Megan M. Tschudy, MD, MPH claims the following:  Chronic absenteeism, or missing 10% or more of the school year, affects educational outcomes, including reading levels, grade retention, graduation rates, and high school dropout rates. Chronic absenteeism already disproportionately affects children living in poverty. The consequences of missing months of school will be even more marked.

Compounding the loss of educational time is the challenge of accessing school      resources. More than 30 million children rely on school nutrition programs. With  schools closed, emergency food assistance is reaching only a fraction of the              children previously served. Schools also provide access to consistent and caring adults who can help build resiliency and offer holistic support. School-based health centers, nursing services, and mental health programs help alleviate disparities in access to health care services.


b.    Economic Loss
     i.      Also appearing in the JAMA Pediatrics article School Closure During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic An Effective Intervention at the Global Level? The authors state: While the efficacy of school closure is debatable, the potential negative consequences of this measure cannot be ignored. Some consequences regard the family. To take care of the youngest children when daycares and schools are closed, parents must remain at home, with inevitable economic consequences.


     ii.      An article appearing in Business Insider titled Closing every school in America because of the coronavirus would cost the US economy $51 billion a month.  The authors, Mark Abadi, Sara Silverstein and Jacqui Frank explain:  In fact, if every school in America were to close its doors, it would cost the economy $51.1 billion a month. That loss translates to .24% of the US economy. It would be due to lost productivity because of absenteeism, according to Joshua Epstein, an NYU epidemiology professor and one of the authors of the analysis. Epstein noted that keeping children at home will likely impact single parents and low-income workers the most, and could add strain to a healthcare system that depends on healthcare workers showing up to clinics and hospitals.

By signing below, you are advocating for the removal of restrictions that will allow Colorado K-12 students a full-time, in-classroom education starting Fall 2020.