Kids should be in the classroom

Published: 10/12/2020 3:22:09 PM Modified: 10/12/2020 3:21:57 PM Tim Jones is right on the mark about getting our kids back to sch...

Published: 10/12/2020 3:22:09 PM

Modified: 10/12/2020 3:21:57 PM

Tim Jones is right on the mark about getting our kids back to school safely (“Our children deserve better than one-size-fits-all remote learning,” Oct. 6). Northampton — and all towns in the Pioneer Valley that have yet to adopt plans with in-person school options — should do so right away. The commonwealth’s education secretary and the governor have told districts with low infection rates like ours that we need to bring children back to the classroom.

Despite the valiant efforts of our educators, remote learning does not begin to adequately substitute for in-person instruction. Moreover, the social isolation and endless hours in front of computers are harming our children. And children from less affluent families and those with learning disabilities are suffering the most. Families with more resources are hiring private tutors and child care providers, while many private schools are safely offering 100% full-time in-person instruction. Remote learning is unsustainable, especially for families with working parents who cannot afford those options. The achievement gap is bound to grow, and the longer our children are out of school, the harder it will be to recover.

As Mr. Jones points out, the local epidemiological data does not support keeping kids home. Students and teachers need not risk their health to return to school, because we have learned how to very effectively limit transmission of SARS-COV-2. Any uptick in cases has been traced to specific events of non-compliance with basic safety precautions, as seen in the recent cluster at UMass Amherst linked to a party. Further, an increase in cases in Holyoke should have no bearing on any area schools, where masks and social distancing will be required.

This pandemic presents enormous challenges to schools and to our teachers. Since COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, we must adapt now. All over the world, children are returning to schools, indoors and safely. We don’t need to look any further than Massachusetts for evidence to support its feasibility and safety. From the emergency child care centers that cared for thousands of children last spring to the 70% of districts that are offering in-person school options — the vast majority inside school buildings — there has been little to no spread within the schools due to effective safety measures.

The only thing standing in the way is fear. We have a responsibility to our kids to take a hard look at the science and the data and face down that fear. Asking our children to needlessly sacrifice their learning, development, and emotional health is senseless and unjust. We ask our school committees to show courage and leadership by adopting plans that prioritize safety and the education of our children.

At a minimum, schools should offer two to three full days of instruction a week for every grade. Some families and teachers may choose to stay home. But let’s give others — teachers and children — the opportunity to go back to school.

Tamara Kupfer


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Newsrust: Kids should be in the classroom
Kids should be in the classroom
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