I watched President Biden’s CNN Townhall. I like President Biden and feel that he is sincere and wants to do a good job. He is well-focused on helping the country move forward. His kindness shines through. But his school plans for Covid-19 are worrisome.
As expected, Covid-19 dominated the Townhall conversation. A whole segment could have been on schools and Covid-19. Unfortunately, the school issue wasn’t well-addressed with only two questions.
Opening Schools in 100 Days
I wish the President had never said that schools should open in 100 days. It reminds me of when politicians from both parties said that with No Child Left Behind, all third graders would read proficiently by 2014. In 2021, students still have reading problems. Covid-19 is different from reading, of course, but making predictions about Covid-19 seems like a gamble.
It’s also not like all schools have been closed. Some schools have in-person learning or a hybrid approach. Schools may open then close due to Covid-19 cases. Teachers have been safely teaching remotely since the beginning of the pandemic.
If he had to pick a time, perhaps it should be Fall, as noted by Dr. Leana Wen, M.D. More people will hopefully be vaccinated and the Covid-19 and its variants under better control. It’s good that the President said teachers should be vaccinated.
Dr. Wen’s approach to opening schools seems cautious but sensible.
Speaking soon with @donlemon @CNNTonight: I still don’t understand the 100-day reopening school plan. We should focus on getting all students back to school for in-person learning in the fall. Catch-up will be important & I’m glad @POTUS addressed summer school. #BidenTownHall
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) February 17, 2021
It was troubling that President Biden spoke of learning loss. Is he listening to McKinsey & Company and other nonprofits and Think Tanks that use learning loss as a way to blame teachers and public schools?
Where is a peer-reviewed education study that says that students have fallen behind? Falling behind what? Student schedules have been disrupted, but students have continued to learn.
Repeatedly hearing about learning loss makes parents uneasy and may drive schools to reopen when it’s not safe.
One way to lessen the stress around Covid-19 is not to force students to take unnecessary high-stakes standardized tests. Teachers are capable of following their student’s progress.
Some children have more difficulties learning remotely, and schools must make accommodations for students with learning problems.
Summer school might be an option if it is done safely, but it shouldn’t pressure stressed children.
The media is pressuring educators and the teacher’s unions to get schools open. The problem is school safety and keeping children safe in those schools. Here’s a rundown of the problems teachers face.
Also, reports continue to surface of Covid-19 cases increasing in children. From February 16, The New York Times: Covid-Linked Syndrome in Children Is Growing, and Cases Are More Severe.
Reports also insinuate that children have mental health issues because they don’t have in-person schooling. This is a concern, but school counselors, teachers, and school psychologists should be a part of the Covid-19 plan for schools and help parents when they are worried about their child’s mental health. How are schools and communities addressing this? It’s also easy to forget that mental health issues for children in and out of school were not well-addressed before Covid-19!
Covid is Scary!
President Biden tried to calm a young child, fearful about Covid-19, but children get the virus, and some get very sick, even die. He might have told her we’re all scared and we need the courage to face our fears by following the rules the best we can. Maybe he could have told her some things to do when she’s afraid, like talk to Mom or Dad, call a friend or go for a family walk and study nature, etc. We should all be thinking of ways to allay the fears in children. It’s not an easy task.
Fact checking @POTUS #BidenTownHall:
-Kids can get #covid19. Over 3 million children have been diagnosed thus far, 99,000 in the week before 2/11/21
-Kids can transmit #covid19 to adults & vice versa
-Vaccines are currently being bested on children 12+https://t.co/IUgUNBqmYz
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) February 17, 2021
The President never mentioned the seriousness of the teacher shortage, or better to say finding teachers willing to work in questionable conditions during a pandemic. School administrators can’t find substitutes. Some states are looking for cheap fixes by asking for volunteers to fill in the teacher’s role. This is a grave concern. Teachers need support and to communicate and work closely with parents during the pandemic.
The President was right in that states and local school districts make many decisions about Covid-19, but he can and should continue to provide guidance.
How to address Covid-19 in schools isn’t straightforward. I hope that President Biden will seek better answers about how and when our schools should safely open in the weeks and months ahead. It would be nice to see him visit schools and talk with teachers.