Pediatricians Urge Return to In-Person School for Elementary and Special Needs Students

Stock photo courtesy of Pragyan Bezbaruah.

Pediatricians are urging the return of in-person learning for, at least, Elementary students. A letter has been written with around 130 physicians across the county.

Pediatricians around the county are urging lawmakers to allow elementary school students to return to in-person schooling. Through a letter written by Dr. Omkar Karthikeyan, 130 physicians, most of whom are pediatricians have signed the letter urging students to return to in-person schooling.

Although a few schools in Southeast Michigan have returned to school, there are still quite a few that haven’t started in-person learning. Students are struggling to maintain academic engagement and are starting to show signs of diminishing self-esteem. Although highschools across the state moved to virtual learning, a lot of elementary students are still learning remotely. 

Schools such as Saline, Dexter, Northville, and Pinkney have adapted a hybrid model for learning which has shown some promise. They have proven that with proper safety measures in place, schools have not been significant drivers for COVID-19 spread. Although raising community rates have resulted in scattered increase in positive cases among individuals ins schools, these have generally been exposures outside of school. To date, there have been on confirmed evidence of significant spread within schools or classrooms when protocols were followed.

Our community is fortunate in that we have widely embraced critical safety measures, which have proven to effectively minimize in-school spread of COVID, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Pediatric offices across the community have been handling the pandemic in the same way and have seen that children are not only aware of the sacrifices they need to make to go back to school, but they’re also more willing to take the actions required of them to return.

Younger children are struggling with virtual learning. The cavernous educational gaps will continue to widen so long as students are unable to return to in-person learning. Students are becoming frustrated and disillusioned with virtual learning, struggle to connect with a teacher they’ve never met, and are missing their friends. Special needs children continue to go without desperately needed services, often facing a closing window for intervention as more time passes. Across all age spectrums, there has been a rising rate of insomnia, anxiety, depression, obesity, and oppositional behaviors. Thousands of families who work outside of the home have had to explore a patchwork of childcare solutions which often comes at a considerable financial burden. 

Healthcare providers are urging the return of in-person learning at minimum for elementary school and special needs students in a hybrid model. This will reduce class sizes and allow for better social distancing. Masks should be mandatory for all students both indoors and outdoors, with rare exceptions. Proper sanitation protocols should also be continuously followed, such as cleaning, sanitizing, and hand-hygiene, to significantly reduce COVID transmissions. Daily screenings with questionnaires can help with symptom monitoring and contact tracing. 

For the full letter, check it out here.