American Academy of Pediatrics Affiliate Calls for Immediate Reopening of Schools
The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for Los Angeles County to immediately reopen schools because the harm of keeping children out of school in response to the COVID-19 pandemic outweighs the risk of having them in a safe and carefully managed classroom.
“A large majority of the 1.5 million students in L.A. County has not been physically in a classroom in nearly a year,” the Southern California Chapter 2 of the AAP said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“This sad consequence of the pandemic should be addressed immediately with the reopening of schools.”
The group represents about 1,500 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists in the area.
California guidelines prevent schools from reopening until there are fewer than 25 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 county residents per day for at least five consecutive days.
LA Unified School District Austin Beutner said that in addition to safety precautions, teachers and staff need to be vaccinated before returning to in-person learning, KABC-TV reported.
“Vaccinating school staff will help get school classrooms opened sooner,” Beutner said, but added, “It won’t be sufficient to vaccinate some school staff now and others far down the road.”
There are exceptions to the restrictions, authorizing transitional kindergarten through second-grade schools to operate under a specially approved waiver, according to the Times.
However, Dr. Kenneth Zangwill, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said that with the right measures in place, schools can operate safely.
“We know how to keep teachers, staff and children safe on school campuses,” Zangwill told the Times.
“Hundreds of schools and school districts have been able to do this in other parts of the country.”
The group of doctors cited a survey of over 500 Los Angeles teachers who reported “low levels of student attendance and engagement” in distance learning and said children are experiencing the emotional and mental impacts “related to social isolation, anxiety, lack of structure.”
“Suicidality among teenagers is now an active area of investigation,” the doctors said.
The union that represents the county’s teachers, librarians, nurses and counselors pushed back against the pediatricians.
“Saying the temporary trauma from distance learning is greater than illness and death of family members conveniently minimizes the reality that COVID-19 disproportionately impacts” minority families, Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told the Times.
“Although, thankfully, serious illness and death among children is rare, 78% of the children who have died in the U.S. are children of color,” Myart-Cruz said.
The union and the school district are negotiating a return to school campuses.
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