Matt Skaggs 928

St. Louis County children have a constitutional right to return safely to school.

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St. Louis County School Board Leaders, Dr. Travis Bracht, Dr. Chris Gaines, Dr. Kevin Carl, Ronald J. Tucker, Ed.S., Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, Dr. Chris Kilbride, Dr. Sharonica L. Hardin- Bartley, Dr. Art McCoy, Dr. Joseph S. Davis, Mr. Marcus C Robinson, Dr. Scott Spurgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Keenan, Dr. Mark Miles, Dr. Keith Marty, Dr. Jim Wipke, Dr. David Ulrich, Dr. John Simpson, Dr. Tony Lake, Dr. John Simpson, Dr. Karen Hall.

In St. Louis County it is every child’s Missouri State Constitutional right to have a safe appropriate education. Offering only an online virtual platform is denying our students this right.

Additionally, our children are suffering:

Online instruction is an inferior method for students to learn. Children’s academic and physical needs to develop appropriately are not being met. Their growing bodies and minds require socialization to form relationships, thrive, and succeed.

Numerous technical difficulties are impeding classroom interaction, causing children to disengage from the learning process. IT support is not adequate nor available at convenient times for families.

The virtual classroom has increased mental and emotional stress from systems with overloaded networks, difficult navigation, and lack of personal guidance. Behaviors observed such as depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, and self harm have increased during virtual learning.

Parents are also suffering:

They are overburdened with the seemingly impossible task: balance virtual learning for their kids in various grade levels, meet their own job requirements, obtain adequate childcare/supervision, and maintain households, many with multiple children.

The school districts have stated virtual learning is their plan for the first quarter. The St. Louis County Health Department and district superintendents have told us there are several factors they are monitoring. No defined return to school plan beyond the first quarter has been offered, despite countless requests for this criteria. Generalized timelines and vague explanations have caused distrust between parents and community leaders.

Current research has shown minimal risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in schools when infection control procedures are followed, along with a very low risk of spread among school age children. The St. Louis health care community is home to world renowned infectious disease physicians who practice and research in our region. They have put together a roadmap to achieve the goal of students’ return to classrooms. Our school opening plans should be guided by these infection specialists, as opposed to others without the same expertise.

Our Petition is clear. We strongly urge the return of in person learning immediately. The data and knowledge of COVID-19 has changed since the spring. Our community understands the need and is willing to take the necessary steps for a safe return to school facilities. The St. Louis County Community Task Force, requests a concise plan be formed by the school districts for in person learning without delay. This plan shall be formed by districts with direct guidance from the St. Louis healthcare community. A collaborative effort between infectious disease experts using accurate data and conclusions should guide our district leaders with opening plans. Our children deserve to receive an education as set forth in the Missouri State Constitution.

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