What We’ve Learned While Our Children Have Been Learning Remotely
The Rye City School District’s decision to return to full-time, in-person learning is the right decision for our children, our families, and our community. Since our schools were initially shut down last March, we have learned a tremendous amount about Covid-19, and it is clear now that our children are safest, and our community is strongest when our children are in school.
Here in Rye, our students returned to school in the fall in so-called hybrid models, which combine in-person and online learning in order to reduce the number of children in the classroom at any one time. Although intended to comply with confusing guidance from the State of New York and minimize the spread of the virus, the experience with hybrid models both locally and elsewhere has taught us that they are no safer and may well be less safe than full-time, in-person learning. Various authorities, including the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization have made clear that six-foot social distancing between students in classrooms – which in many ways was the impetus for hybrid models – is not necessary for schools to be safe. Meanwhile, hybrid models have had the unintended impact of forcing children to spend more time in environments with less stringent mitigations than those in place in schools, and it seems hardly a coincidence that the infections identified in our schools, without exception, were acquired elsewhere.
Even more important than what we have learned about the virus, however, is the reminder we have received that our schools are the beating hearts of our community. Just as public health authorities are reporting troubling information about the mental health of children around the country, we have seen our kids falling behind in their studies, struggling with hour-after-hour of screen time, and missing irreplaceable human connection with their teachers and classmates, while our families have struggled to balance work, childcare, and other obligations.
The Rye community has taken, and will continue to take, Covid-19 seriously. But as parents, we know that our children face risks and threats beyond the virus, and returning them to school full-time is essential to keeping them safe and helping them thrive.