Letter to the Editor ~ Opinion

November 28, 2020

By Mica Wiemann, MBA
Lee’s Summit R-7 parent

The school’s primary mission is education. However, there are many other services that are directly and indirectly provided. Meals, socialization, emotional stability, exercise, and detection of child abuse and child neglect are some of the extremely important aspects of the in-person education experience. It is important to acknowledge that while most students are at home, they are not being educated. When children are isolated at home, almost all of the experiences that lead to meaningful education services cease to exist. We need to have a conversation about the collateral damage to our children as a result of choosing online only school vs in-person schooling.

COVID-19 has been in our country for several months, and we have had enough time to compile significant data on mortality rates among children and adults. Studies show that children are much less likely to contract the virus, and the mortality rate is significantly lower than that of adults. The mortality risk to a student who gets infected with SARS-CoV-2 is in the range of .003% or 3 in 100,000. This is bolstered by Eastern Jackson County data. For the ages of 0-29 there have been 0 deaths. It is now medical and epidemiological consensus that school age children are not at mortal risk. It is also important to consider adults, or the teachers who will be with the students. It is true that risks from COVID increase with age. For teachers aged 23-49, which are most of the teachers in R7, that mortality risk is .02%. Since all lives are precious, it is great news that the rates of transmission within the schools has been so low with a staff infection rate of .00378 nationally. This fall, when schools began to open back up and we saw the rise in COVID-19 cases, there was not a subsequent or corresponding rise in pediatric deaths or teacher hospitalizations due to school transmission. This further supports the fact that schools are the safest place for children to be. It is true that some are concerned with other lingering effects in survivors, but studies show that this is rare, and usually mild. With numbers this low, why has administration and the school board at LSR7 chosen to close for in person learning? In essence, children are the safest age group to be around.
What about the risks from keeping schools closed? Pre-pandemic, suicide was already the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24. Isolation from peers, increased anxiety and stress only heighten this trend. Mental health professionals have reported record increases in the need for psychiatric and counseling services. We are actually putting our youth at a much higher risk of death by suicide by keeping them out of school. There have already been teen suicide attempts in R7 due to isolation, and stress from virtual school. Even violent child abuse with acute trauma to the head is on the rise in 2020 at 10 times the rate of 2018 and 2019. In addition, the majority of child abuse and neglect cases are discovered at school. These children become invisible and their struggles go undetected when they don’t come to school in person. Not only are we taking away the eyes on kids that normally spot the problem, we are exacerbating the in-home stress that leads to these problems by making it harder for parents to work.

As a parent of two children attending LSR7, I have seen the mental health impacts first hand. The reality is that the collateral damage we are causing to our children is far worse than any risk COVID-19 represents. We must stand up for our children. Throughout this process of school closures, online, hybrid, and full time chaos, the parents and students have not been consulted. The parents who want to keep their kids home have been granted that choice, which I support. We, the parents of kids who NEED in person school, have not had a voice in the process. It is past time for our voices to be heard, particularly when the data supports being in school. LSR7 – are you listening?

Sources:
IFR for kids:

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2918-0
    https://www.acsh.org/news/2020/11/18/covid-infection-fatality-rates-sex-and-age-15163
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html

On the low rate of transmission in schools.

  1. https://statsiq.co1.qualtrics.com/public-dashboard/v0/dashboard/5f78e5d4de521a001036f78e#/dashboard/5f78e5d4de521a001036f78e?pageId=Page_c0595a5e-9e70-4df2-ab0c-14860e84d36a

On the maltreatment of children in 2020:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7472978/
  2. https://adc.bmj.com/content/early/2020/06/30/archdischild-2020-319872

Description of long term Covid effects.

  1. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/risk-comms-updates/update-36-long-term-symptoms.pdf?sfvrsn=5d3789a6_2