Open Up Our School
Dear Canton School Board Members,
The parents and students of Canton Union School District #66 want our schools to open for in person learning. We feel opening our schools is a necessity and e-learning is no longer sustainable. We ask that the board takes into consideration the concerns and facts that we have listed below.
First, the majority of the schools in this area have been opened either full-time or with a hybrid plan. Thus far, these schools have been able to successfully maintain sending their children to school as well as keeping the faculty safe. With that being said, we would like to point out that some of these counties who have open their schools are on warning level for coronavirus disease. Fulton County does NOT fall into this category. According to the IDPH site the most recent information shows that the positivity rate in Fulton County is 3.5% which is minimal risk. It is our understanding that faculty were in fact training for a hybrid model over the summer and the School Board has had ample time to prepare for at minimum, a hybrid model.
Secondly, as Canton Union School District #66 continues to participate in remote only learning, the gap in education widens. The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically states, “For children and adolescents in virtual learning models, educational disparities may widen further” (2020). Additionally, the AAP strongly recommends that schools should start with a goal of having students physically present in school beginning the school year (2020). Per the AAP, this should have been the goal beginning the 2020 school year unless of course, the area was unable to control the spread of COVID-19; however, this is not the case for Canton, IL as the virus is not running rampant amongst the community. The CDC also reports that extended school closure is harmful to children and can lead to severe learning loss (2020). The CDC specifically states:
According to the Northwest Evaluation Association, in the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math. By the summer after seventh grade, students lose on average 39 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 50 percent of their school-year gains in math. School closure only makes this loss more severe (2020).
Disparities in educational outcomes are particularly concerning for low-income students. Obviously, this is concerning for families in Canton, IL as we have a 20.1% poverty rate. This means that 1 in 5 families are living below the poverty line. Canton, IL is dramatically higher in poverty rate compared to the rest of Illinois which is at 13.5%.
Thirdly, we would like to point out the impact that not attending school is having on children and adolescents. Besides putting our children significantly behind from an education standpoint, children and adolescents are suffering emotionally, mentally and socially. Unfortunately, some of the district’s children are suffering physically as their only escape from a negative home environment was in fact, school. The AAP states:
The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality (2020).
At one point during a board meeting it was stated that even one life was too many which was part of the rationale for not going back in person. We would then raise the questions, “Does the abused child at home matter? Does that life matter?”
Fourthly, this situation has not only impacted children, but the family as a whole. In an already impoverished town, families are struggling to find proper child care for their children. This is causing older students to babysit younger siblings and help them with e-learning, all while trying to do their own school work. In addition, some families may resort to having children stay home at younger ages than would be appropriate (ex. 8-11-year olds staying home by themselves as there is no place for them to go). This essentially puts children at higher risk. Some family members have had to quit their jobs in order to stay home with kids during this time as they could not afford to pay child care. Other homes have had to adjust to working full time while helping teach their children at the same time. This has greatly impacted mental health and stress in adults that then leads to an increased likelihood of child abuse.
Lastly, while we certainly appreciate the need/want for keeping children and staff safe, we would like to point out that it appears children younger than 10 years may be less likely to become infected as well as less likely to spread the virus (AAP, 2020). According to the CDC, “Children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than .1 percent of COVID-19 related deaths... So far in this pandemic, deaths of children are less than in each of the last five flu seasons” (2020). Many employees were required to work during the beginning of this pandemic and while following guidelines were able to safely execute their daily duties. Several of these employees would have been medical staff, grocery staff, and clerical staff that would have been exposed to hundreds of people a day. Canton, IL appears to have been able to successfully keep these employees safe during this time. We believe this can be successfully done for our children and teaching staff as well especially since the CDC reports, “The rate of infection among younger school children, and from students to teachers, has been low, especially when precautions are followed” (2020). This has also proven to be true for child transmission to family members.
When considering all the above, we believe that the district is failing our children. There has been ample time to come up with a return to school plan. Considering the above-mentioned points, we ask that the Canton Union School District #66 Board reconsider the timeline of returning to school to ensure that our children have a chance to succeed and live their best lives.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re- entry. Retrieved from: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coron...
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communit...