Featured experts discuss a unified message concerning the opening of schools
By ONME Newswire
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a determined virus attempting to engage in a hostile take-over of the economy, peoples lives and the educational system.
California school districts are scrambling to to open their elementary schools amid the the COVID-19 pandemic uncertainty while teachers' unions fight for the safety of teachers re-entering the classrooms, and parents remain on the fringe of information concerning the matter, fretting about their children's' mental health and grade-level competency.
The impact on students abruptly pushed into distance learning is dismissal and is causing depressions and suicide rates to rise; some students do not have food at home and look forward to those breakfast and lunch meals at school. And the greatest impact on students involves the declining in grade-level competency; grades have declined and there is lower student-participation rates, particularly among low-income students.
Producer host Julia Dudley Najieb featured experts who talk about the challenges of opening schools right now during the COVID-19 pandemic: Dr. Louis Freedberg, Dr. Tyrone Howard, Akil Vohra, Detroit parent activist, Bernita Bradley, and concerned, Los Angeles, parent Karla Franco.
Louis Freedberg is executive director of EdSource. Before coming to EdSource, Freedberg was the founding director of California Watch at the Center for Investigative Reporting. He spent 15 years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was an award-winning education reporter, Washington correspondent, columnist, and member of the editorial board. He has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in child development from
Freedberg discussed how Chicago school unions are in a huge battle right now along with San Francisco, Ca mayor, London Breed's lawsuit against its own school district; he said that Los Angeles is trying to do something similar as San Francisco.
Although the risk of transmission in elementary schools are low, this data does not include middle and high school students, Freedberg explained. He suggested two key factors people should look at when considering reopening their schools:
Adults in schools must have the same protections and mitigation strategies must be in place first along with good ventilation and a screening process which a lot of school do not have right now.
Freedberg also said it depends on one's community spread data and rate, which means there is a greater chance of the virus being transmitted at school
Tyrone Howard is Professor of Education, Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education to Strengthen Families, and director of the Black Male Institute at UCLA. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1998, his M.A. in Education from California State University Dominguez Hills in 1994, and his B.A. from the University of California, Irvine in 1990. His teaching and research interests include urban education, social studies education, and the educational experience of African American students.
Howard expressed he had for students who are depressed or emotionally tolled due to the pandemic which is manifesting through some students acting out aggressively physically. These students then get disciplined heavily versus getting the counseling needed.
"As we open schools, many schools do not have the support system to support children suffering traumatic experiences," said Howard. Before the pandemic, Howard noted that many students who suffered from bullying at school or who suffer from high levels of anxiety are doing well remotely in the online format.
Howard also said that teachers have to feel protected and safe as we talk about reopening schools; opening schools should be customized to local needs. Certain districts will have more resources which makes it an easier opening process for them and not others.
"Some teachers are trying to figure out how can you do social distancing with 40 students in a class in larger urban districts."
Akil Vohra is the Executive Director of Asian American LEAD (AALEAD). He serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). Akil also served as the principal liaison to the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine, and the George Washington University Law School.
Vohra had a real concern for children being left home alone who need help. Also students are becoming bored, and being on virtual screens all day can be exhaustive.
Vohra insisted that we have to be cautious of having a blanket approach to different districts who had different needs according to their population and resources available, every one district is unique to its student population and demographics.
"Although transmission rates are low among children, what does that mean for multi-generational homes who have grandparents at home?"
Bernita Bradley is with the National Parents Union, and also serves as community engagement manager for Enroll Detroit and owner of The Village PCL. She served for two terms at AmeriCorps/AmeriCorps Vista.
Bradley talked about the the tough four-year battled they had to endure in Detroit, MI to have equity in basic education for reading, writing and math.
She said there was no support for Black and Brown children who may not have experience in basic technology; the parents are in the same boat and unable to help their children.
"Our Black families historically have not trusted education because education has failed them."
Bradley insisted that parents need to be at the table when school districts are making decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the new ways to reach students, which is their children 24/7, they may have better insight to help the school officials.
"There's 70 percent of parents who said we need to reimagine education; it was not working before and it is not working now," said Bradley. "Everybody wants to push us back into this norm, they want us to go back into this model of just social distance your kids in school and yet still do and have they same outcome and some magical thing will happen and kids will learn--no."
Bradley also talked about the lack of emotional support in their school system; they have one nurse to service four schools across the city in Detroit. Also they had children who came up COVID-19 positive because there was no checks and balances to screen the student populations in the schools.
Karla Franco is a Los Angeles parent concerned parent who said,"We are not ready to open schools. Campuses were not safe before the pandemic."
Franco referred to the bullying and fighting on campuses which she feels is out of control in her area and is not being dealt with.
Franco also noted the problem of slow Internet or no internet; it especially doesn't work as well when several children are on devices at one time in the home.