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Letters to the Editor: Everyone Wants Their Children in School... Is It Worth the Risk?

letter to the editorThis letter was sent to us from Jenna Horowitz, SHS alumni and mental health professional:

I write my thoughts here about Scarsdale reopening plans as a SHS Alum ’06, previous mental health employee at SMS, and someone who is currently employed by a school that will be re-opening full-time. As a mental health professional in an NYC private school, I have spent the last month hearing various school reopening plans in both NYC and Westchester. Based on the fact that each district has very different plans it is clear that we are all making educated guesses about the best protocols without any certainty of what will keep the most people safe. In reading Scarsdale10583.com’s reporting on the re-opening plans, I notice the complexities and tension that are arising that is so clearly defined by parents, teachers, and administrator’s anxiety around the uncertainties of the pandemic.

FACT: Everyone wants kids back in school every year. Scarsdale parents value their children learning and growing, teachers value guiding students and forming connections and students want to gain knowledge and spend time with their peers. However, this year everyone’s health and safety overrides academic growth in the pandemic.

I recently attended a webinar that focused on protecting student mental health in re-opening plans. Dr. Lisa Damour, a well-regarded clinical psychologist, and Liz Katz, constantly re-iterated that this school year is not about being productive or academic excellence. The goal of the 2020-2021 school year is to get kids psychologically through the school year in the global pandemic. Parents who want their children in school learning are focused on the social connections school allows and the belief that in-person learning is more productive. However, wearing a mask and being six feet apart will not allow students to informally hang out, work collaboratively or be focused on the lesson. Students will likely be adjusting their masks constantly, be concerned every time someone coughs or sneezes and have difficulty hearing their teacher due to not seeing their mouths. Then top that off with the reality that someone is likely to contract COVID-19 and spread this and worry about friends, family, or teachers who get very ill or die from this. Is academic excellence really more important than people’s health or emotional well-being?

We can all agree that online learning in the Spring was a disaster for every school. This was a crisis situation that led teachers to realize that their in-person curriculum could not be easily translated to an online platform and led students to be confused and frustrated. I believe that online learning can be different in the Fall. We are more mentally prepared to both teach and learn online. Also, I suspect teachers have probably done some level of research to find tools that can assist in their curriculum planning for the online experience.

In conclusion, my opinion is that the infection rate in NY will rise once schools re-open and we may not even be in school for long. In order to re-open schools safely there are a lot of various equipment and cleaning protocols that need to be put in place that are expensive. Are you willing to use a good portion of the school budget so your children can be in school for 2-3 months, when it can be spent on other options that will support the academic excellence you expect from Scarsdale schools in the future?

For those of you who believe students should be in-person more, I am so hopeful that your belief that this will work is right. That would be the best case scenario. But what are the consequences if you are wrong?

I will be going back to school on September 10th in-person. “Welcome. Happy Hunger Games, may the odds be ever in your favor.” -Suzanne Collins

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