As the country continues to rebound, we are hearing a different strategy on kids going back to in-person schooling.
“We highlight the need for in the reopening to focus on the children who are most at risk and prioritize those with the greatest needs,” said Christopher Morphew, dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.
Education and public health experts at Johns Hopkins outlined a six-point plan based on safety, health and academic needs. They focus first on kids with remote learning barriers, special education students, and those who rely on schools for food support.
“We are seeing reports from children who say they aren’t learning as much, that they don’t have access to people to help them, that they don’t feel as comfortable learning,” said Morphew.
The experts argue districts with limited resources should start with bringing back the youngest children first because they don't do as well with virtual learning. But they also warn a virtual backup plan is needed should virus cases show up in school.
Families who may not feel comfortable going back or have special higher risk circumstances like a grandmother taking care of a young child should also have virtual options.
There are other concerns beyond educational needs.
“The kids get a lot of social and emotional development. They get relationships with the teacher, which is extremely important for them and their friends, and cutting kids off from that for a critical period of their lives, for an extended period, is really detrimental to them,” said Dr. Josh Sharfstein with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
More than 20 million children rely on school breakfast or lunch for food. Surveys indicate one in five mothers report their children younger than 12 years old are going hungry.
Another key role schools play – teachers and other officials recognize about one in five cases of possible child abuse.