Parents call on school board to let children’s lives return to normal
Posted: Tuesday February 15th, 2022 2:21 PM
As COVID rates drop sharply and New York State’s mask mandate for schools is set to expire February 21, 2022, some parents are urging Scarsdale schools to ease COVID restrictions. Currently, Scarsdale’s rules exceed state requirements, and some parents want the district to allow children to eat lunch and chat with friends, sip water whenever they want, and allow parents to enter the school to see their children’s classrooms.
At the Scarsdale School Board meeting on February 14, 2022, both Tali Newman and Kim Liebowitz made impassioned comments asking the board to take action.
Here is what they said:
I respectfully ask the Commission to respond in specific terms to what it is doing to help restore a normal life for our children.
I want to make sure that everyone listening to this meeting is aware of the things that were once taken for granted and have been taken away from our children. Children wear masks all day.
They are not allowed to take them off except for one or two mask breaks and a short lunch. If they’re lucky, they get some outdoor recreation. They are not allowed to talk during lunch or tea time. They are only allowed to drink water twice a day during mask breaks. They watch movies during indoor recreation. Group projects are replaced with iPad time. They are not allowed to bring family members to school. I have never seen the inside of my son’s school. All of this has a profound negative impact on their mental health. None of this is imposed by the state. It’s a choice you make, the BOE and our administration.
I recently e-mailed the Emergency Toolbox of Normal to the Council. The Toolkit — Children, COVID and the Urgency of Normalcy. The toolkit was authored by 15 nonpartisan doctors and has since been signed by more than 1,000 healthcare providers.
As mentioned in the toolkit, CDC data shows that COVID poses very few serious illness threats to students, and yet they face disproportionate restrictions. Teachers, staff and family members are well protected by vaccination.
Two years later, protecting the mental, social and emotional health of students should be our priority at this point.
Indicators of student mental health and distress are alarming.
Policies to improve and protect student mental health are urgently needed.
Depressive and anxiety symptoms have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of young people showing depressive symptoms and 20% anxiety symptoms.
A study of hospitalizations for eating disorders found a 120% increase.
According to national surveillance data from the CDC, ER visits for suspected suicide attempts among teenage girls increased by 51% in 2021.
There is more to health than just the absence of COVID-19. Reclaiming a normal life for our children is the best way to support and protect them. Instead of simply allocating resources to the mental health of our children, let’s correct one of the causes of their distress.
In this regard, I wanted to bring to your attention one of Scarsdale Council’s stated goals for this year:
Participate in legislative advocacy impacting public education through efforts suggested by our administration or coordinated by the New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and Westchester Putnam School Boards Association (WPSBA).
On Wednesday evening February 9, the Eastchester School Board adopted the following resolutions: (read those in bold)
WHEREAS, due to recent changes, the District is no longer legally required to conduct contact tracing of close contacts; and
WHEREAS, the Board believes it is in the interest of students in the district to relax certain protocols for social distancing, outdoor masking and other Covid-19 protocols to the extent that such protocols negatively affect education, health mental or physical, social or emotional well-being of students as soon as possible, in accordance with legally applicable laws.
RESOLVED that the District Reopening Plan and social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols be promptly reviewed and modified or eliminated, as necessary or appropriate, to eliminate any negative impact thereof on student education , mental health, or physical, social, or emotional well-being, including as necessary or appropriate to (1) relax restrictions on District visitors and events, (2) eliminate all outdoor masking requirements, and (3 ) relax lunch restrictions and allow all students to eat lunch under normal conditions comfortably in each building; and let it be further
COUNCILS CAN ACT. In light of the Council’s stated advocacy objective, I respectfully ask the Council to update the community on what IT is doing to advocate for and prepare for the removal of the state’s mask mandate and to restore normality in our children’s school experiences (i.e., no quieter lunch, more social distancing, more drinking water only 2x a day, parents IN the building).
Dr. Kimberly Greene-Liebowitz
I want to talk to you tonight about COVID mitigation measures in our schools. Thank you for the announcement that masks will become optional at the end of the mask term.
OUR CHILDREN NEED NORMAL
Our understanding of COVID has evolved over the past two years, as has the virus, which is now more contagious but less pathogenic. A zero COVID strategy is not feasible for four main reasons:
1. Frequent Mutations
2. Non-human hosts
3. Asymptomatic spread
4. Diminishing Immunity
With this in mind, we must focus on vulnerable populations and treatment rather than elimination of infections. I know you are all aware of this.
Children, even those who are not vaccinated, are at extremely low risk of adverse events or death from COVID. A study of 199 hospitals showed zero pediatric deaths from COVID from December 26 to January 15, 2022 compared to 495 deaths in people over 50. In New York, the difference is glaring: 56 deaths of children aged 0 to 19 since the start of the pandemic compared to 28,391 over 70 years. Children account for 0.1% of deaths.
With that in mind, it is high time to end the majority of mitigation measures in place in schools. These measures have a slight effect in reducing the spread of disease, but given the airborne nature of Omicron – and probably future variants, given that evolution has tended to be airborne – their benefit has diminished considerably. over the past two years. Children and adults in this community frequent restaurants, theaters and museums. They fly on airplanes and line up in stores. In all of these situations, they are closer to strangers than our children would be to their lunchtime friends. These children are together all day, every day, and there is little point in separating them at lunchtime or in class.
The costs outweigh the benefits.
Limiting viewers is illogical. If people can go to Madison Square Garden with thousands of people who don’t live in that community, surely they can sit next to their neighbors for a play or sporting event. Both parents. And the grandparents. And brothers and sisters.
Childhood is limited in time and can never be regained. Those years that were stolen from our children are gone forever, never to return. I realize some may find these words inflammatory, but they are the truth. 85% of brain development occurs by the time children are five years old. Social-emotional development occurs in elementary school and beyond, and children cement their knowledge during these formative years. We can’t waste any more time on mitigation measures. These children will never be able to compensate for the loss.
Our children need a normal lunch. Normal snack. Normal breaks. Normal water consumption. Normal ambient temperatures. Normal celebrations. Normal events. NORMAL CHILDHOOD.
Please tell the community tonight that you will remove all mitigations now.
Let our children grow up normally.