Opinion: Education is an Essential Service

June 15, 2020

Submitted by Suzanne Garland 

As we close in on 3 months of school closures and start thinking ahead towards Summer and Fall, we must think about what is best for our children.

The negative impact of school closures on children has been measured in studies across the globe. They have missed out on months of education and suffered socially and emotionally in ways that are largely being ignored or overlooked.

Despite the teachers putting in more than a full effort, the remote learning plan was not enjoyable or productive for anyone involved. Parents are struggling to keep up with their young children’s Zoom schedules, help them navigate technology, print out worksheets, walk them through math and reading questions, all while trying to work a full-time job or take care of other young children. Teachers, meanwhile, are trying to Zoom with classes of students while their own children demand their attention.

A recent Boston Globe article reported that one in five Boston students has not logged on for remote learning since May 4th.  Our most vulnerable children are suffering the most. Rather than being the “great equalizer,” education right now is the exact opposite. The wealthy may hire tutors to more traditionally homeschool or fill in gaps, while those who cannot will fall behind. Dropout rates will surge as students get discouraged.

As the science continues to indicate that this virus does not pose a significant danger to children and healthy adults; the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has issued mandates that appear to double-down on what more and more people are realizing are concerns not supported by science.  For those students and teachers with underlying conditions who are truly high risk, common sense precautions can be put into place for those individuals.

Education is essential. Teachers are as essential as any of the other “essential services” for which people go to work every day.  Students need their teachers and they both need to be in the classroom working together.

It is time for parents to speak up for the children.

*Suzanne is currently circulating this petition to Gov. Baker for children to return to school in the Fall.

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