Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon recently met virtually with the Eastern Shore delegation to Annapolis.
Salmon, who previously served as superintendent of Talbot County Public Schools, pressed her case that schools should get back to having in-person classes.
“We don’t need more rules. Schools are clean and safe, and probably better than some of the places where our kids are if they’re not in affluent situations,” Salmon said.
Schools — across the Shore and the state — need to responsibly get back to in-person classes.
We are by no means minimizing the continued threats COVID presents — in particular to seniors and those with underlying medical conditions.
The social, mental health and educational costs to students and families from schools being closed to in-person classes are serious and significant.
Many students — across grades and levels — simply do not learn as well from home. They don’t get to interact directly with teachers and friends.
Too many of our students here on Shore lack adequate internet access to take classes online. School districts have worked to help those students, but connectivity is a serious problem for too many of our neighbors.
Schools have also worked hard to keep meal programs going for lower-income students. Those meals are often the primary source of nutrition for those kids.
But not having in-person classes is also robbing kids of important social safety nets.
They are missing out on the chance to participate in sports, music, performing arts and other extracurricular activities. They are missing out on student art exhibits, homecoming and proms, and just seeing their friends.
Schools are a safe haven for many students. They are away from negative, toxic and sometimes abusive home situations. Teachers, counselors and friends can also spot potential abuse and offer help and resources. Potential abuse is less likely to be spotted via Zoom classes than in person.
We want schools to be safe and ready to react accordingly as circumstances change and dictate. Students should have the option to take classes virtually as we navigate the pandemic.
But if we do not move toward reopening schools, students will be negatively impacted. That includes a worrisome mental health crisis among young people and children. They are wrestling with anxiety, depression and other behavioral health challenges from the stresses and isolation of the pandemic.
And, we haven’t even gotten into the economics of kids being sequestered at home. Many parents have had to leave jobs or have lost hours and pay because they have to be at home with kids. In some instances, older siblings have had to give up their own jobs and activities to take care of younger relatives.
School districts on the Shore have been working hard to get kids back into classrooms. Salmon and Gov. Larry Hogan are right in their push to get schools reopened to students.
We all need to get behind that effort.