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Mike Klonsky’s Blog: The AAP’s School Guidance Principles Don’t Align with Trump/DeVos Mandated Reopening.

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President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening to cut federal funding if schools don't fully physically reopen in the fall, regardless of the state of the pandemic and with or without required CDC safety measures being in place.

They may think they think their reckless mandate is supported by the highly respected American Academy of Pediatrics. But it isn't. At least not if I'm reading the AAP's planning recommendations for school reopening correctly.

The AAP, the professional organization of pediatricians, would like to see schools reopen safely in the fall, as would most of us, especially most working families. But the timing of this report left some wondering if these experts on pediatric care were fronting for Trump and the mainly Republican early-openers who have driven up the deadly coronavirus caseload numbers across the country.

The organization “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school” -- and the reasons are not just about academics.

The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

But the AAP guidance goes on to present an extensive list of key principles that should be considered in the course of any reopening. The list includes elements like physical distancing requirements, protective equipment, cohort crossovers, school visitors, common and outdoor space (playgrounds and hallways), on-site health and counseling, special education services, block scheduling in high schools, cleaning and disinfection, and virologic testing and screening and much more.

This one is interesting.

The personal impact on educators and other school staff should be recognized. In the same way that students are going to need support to effectively return to school and to be prepared to be ready to process the information they are being taught, teachers cannot be expected to be successful at teaching children without having their mental health needs supported. 

Do you know of any schools or school districts that can have all or any of these in place in the next six to eight weeks, especially with existing budget and personnel constraints? I sure don't.

The list is comprehensive and makes for a great framework or checklist for educators and school planners. A serious review of the guidance should make it clear that its scope and required planning time and the extra resources needed for implementation fly directly in the face of the Trump/DeVos demands for a fall opening with no money or prerequisites attached.

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Mike Klonsky

Mike Klonsky is an educator, writer, school reform activist, and director of the Small Schools Workshop (http://www.blogger.com/profile/02017021676773731024). ...