Research supporting in-person August 17th start date for WCSD

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Jessica Flake
Jessica Flake signed this petition

This petition represents parents, teachers, and community members of the Washoe County School District who have a desire and are comfortable for the return of their children to attend school in person starting August 17th, per the original start date set by WCSD.

This request is based in currently available research and recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and various teacher organizations across the United States. The AAP strongly advocates that “All policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” The following is meant to highlight the dangers and concerns for WCSD students if available research is not taken into consideration.

Over-utilization of distance learning is an inappropriate and insufficient responses to managing child education and development during the Covid-19 pandemic. Survey data from the American Educator Panel found that of teachers surveyed, only 43% were able to cover any new content with student via distance learning. Implying that the majority of students made no academic or educational progress since the school closures. Additionally, a study from The Educators for Excellent group found that of those classrooms surveyed, only about 60% of students were in attendance during distance learning classes or check ins. This research coupled with countless other studies gives enough evidence to conclude that distance learning is insufficient to use as a serious approach to education.

Outside of the ineffectiveness of distance learning, delayed start dates pose additional concerns for our children. The AAP states that “The importance of in-person learning is well-documented... Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.” More unsettling numbers have come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2018, educators were responsible for 21% of the 4.3 million referrals sent to CPS. And according to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, hotline reports of abuse and neglect between mid-March and mid-April were 62 percent lower than in the same period last year. We cannot deny these children the safety and shelter of school. Without educators, these children are going unnoticed and unprotected. 

The setbacks placed on our students through delayed start dates and distance learning are not only negatively impacting our children’s education, but their mental health as well. A survey conducted by the American Civil Union of Southern California asked students to rate their mental wellness before and after schools closed on a scale of 1 to 10. Before the pandemic, 65% of students gave themselves a 7+. During the pandemic and school closures, it has dropped to less than 40%. In addition, the number of students that rated their mental wellness as below a 3 has tripled since the pandemic began, from 7.2% to 23%.

The current guidance of school closures is heavily based on what we know of other common respiratory viruses. Growing evidence suggests that although children and adolescents play a major role in influenza outbreaks, that is not the case with Covid-19. Children are less likely to be symptomatic and also less likely to transmit the virus to adults. The AAP writes, “Researchers provide early reassurance that school-based transmission could be a manageable problem, and school closures may not have to be a foregone conclusion, particularly for elementary school–aged children who appear to be at the lowest risk of infection”. The AAP continues, “On the basis of these data, SARS-CoV-2 transmission in schools may be less important in community transmission than initially feared.”

The WCSD presented a list of guiding principles for reopening to the board of trustees, they’ve written, “All decisions are based on a foundation of “Do No Harm.” In the current climate it is impossible to “Do No Harm.” Either our children are permitted to return to schools, where Covid-19 spread may occur, but will be met with the aggressive management and maintenance already outlined by WCSD in their July Live Q and A session, or we abandon our children’s education, safety and mental development waiting for a solution that may not be coming. Clearly, the action to open schools on the original August 17th start date provides the greatest opportunity to ensure that our children are protected from the majority of the “Harm” caused by this pandemic.

All parents who have signed this petition hold our teachers in high regard. We value the role they play in the development of our children. Their safety goes hand in hand with that of our children. The utilization of teachers aids, undergraduate and graduate teaching assistance and local volunteers should be considered to help protect teachers who are considered “High Risk,” as we move to full school openings.   

Cited References

AAP COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry

Depression and anxiety in adolescents rising since schools shut down

Child neglect reporting

Transmission from children to adults

AAP Journal

Educators For Excellence Survey Date:

American Educator Panel