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Blaine's Bulletin: The Need to Reopen Missouri Schools

Washington, July 24, 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, life has looked much different for most adults. Some have worked from home, some have unfortunately lost their jobs and essential workers have worked harder than ever. And while the adults have been trying their best to navigate the difficulty of the past couple of months, students have been at home trying to cope with their new normal: distance learning. This has been a huge undertaking for both children and their parents that could potentially have lasting health, social, and educational consequences if we do not get students back to school this fall. 

Missouri schools have been closed since April and parents, teachers and students alike have faced the challenges that come with learning from home. Our state’s incredible teachers have gone above and beyond to help their students through this difficult time and stay engaged from afar. They have spent hours on video calls teaching lessons, offered one-on-one help for as many students as possible, and driven by their students’ homes to offer a smile and a wave in an attempt to boost morale at this potentially lonely time without their friends. Parents have also faced a specific set of obstacles. Whether it’s been attempting to teach their child a subject they haven’t studied since they were in school themselves, trying to balance working remotely along with homeschooling, or still going into work every day and attempting to find child care, this has been an incredibly difficult situation for parents in Missouri and across the country. And of course, this time has been extremely trying for students who have been at home. Whether it’s a kindergartener trying to learn important developmental skills, or a high school junior who is focused on getting into their first choice of colleges, learning from home has been a major hurdle for students of all ages. 

Allowing students to return to in-person learning is vital for a number of reasons. The most obvious, of course, is to allow our children to receive the best education possible from the teachers who have dedicated their lives to their profession. Teachers are well-versed in tailoring their lessons to a whole room of students who might all learn in a different way. They know how to get through to students who have learning disabilities, those who are disengaged, or those who might need more of a challenge. Our students need these incredible people to help them succeed academically and get to the next level of learning. 

Beyond the need for students to learn from trained educators, there are substantial consequences for keeping students at home. The American Association of Pediatrics recently released guidance for school reopenings stating it “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” There are major health risks involved with keeping students at home. Schools provide mental health support, physical activity and meals for children who might not otherwise have access to these resources. Attending school also allows students to have dedicated attention from teachers who are able to notice concerning changes in a student’s behavior or signs of potential child abuse. And interacting with peers is crucial to children’s social and emotional development. 

Studies have found that children are far less susceptible to catching coronavirus and less than 10% of infections have been in people under the age of 18. While students will not be the only people in the schools, it is possible to take proper precautions to protect the teachers and staff who work there as well. Getting Missouri students back to school this fall is incredibly important to their social, physical and academic well-being and I am hopeful that we can work together to get our state’s schools reopened in a responsible and safe way.