The rising number of COVID-19 cases in our country has once again set off the alarms and created a new set of decisions about what to do in our schools and communities. In Pennsylvania the numbers of new cases are higher than ever before. This has presented a myriad of familiar problems of breakouts, hospitalizations and increased deaths. It appears that our therapeutics are a bit better than before, but the rate of contagion is overwhelming.
The temptation is to shut down our businesses, places of public gatherings and our schools or at least put all of our schools back to virtual education. Recently I listened to parents of students express their concerns about the impact of going all virtual. They are passionate about the fact that they believe the safest and healthiest place for their children is to be back in live school. Parents who have children with learning or emotional deficits are passionate that they and their children had gone through devastating psychological consequences due to the last round of virtual learning.
I also heard from schools and school districts in our region who are required and working diligently to keep their students masked and socially distanced tell us that there were very few outbreaks within their schools. They also asserted that if there were any health problems they were immediately dealt with. Schools in Pennsylvania have very specific procedures for health and safety including extreme measures in sanitation for vehicles, computers, bathrooms, daily cleaning and so much more. Schools are probably the safest and most protected environment because of all the prevention and mitigation measures we are all taking. What is commonly known is that schools in their current state are not super-spreading agents of COVID-19.
Students who are enrolled in Lakeside’s schools and programs are extremely dependent on personal relationships to help them with the education and clinical care. Being at home deprives them of some of the support they could receive from our trained and capable staff. They are placed with us because of those needs and our capability to help them succeed.
We certainly want to contain the virus. We care deeply about the health of our students, our staff and their families. However, school has been and continues to be one of the healthiest environments that can be provided to our students and there is little evidence that schools are spreaders of COVID-19 if proper procedures are adhered to.
These decisions are incredibly difficult, but we need to consider the mental health of our students and families as much as we are protecting their physical health. Parents and schools are very nervous about the needs of some of our students who need emotional support. As we go through the next very serious phase of this pandemic, we must bring balance to our decision-making and carefully weigh these significant issues when devising strategies for creating health in our communities.