In support of hybrid learning for Yarmouth's youngest students
To the members of the Yarmouth School Committee and School Administration:
As the parent of a K-4 student in Yarmouth schools, I want to express my concerns regarding the actual implementation of the proposal presented by the Pandemic Instruction Task Force. While I am appreciative of the quick work of this dedicated group, I remain concerned that the risks of this proposal outweigh the benefits, particularly when it comes to younger school-aged children. This school year has been difficult for everyone, and I acknowledge that all parents—each and every one struggling under unique situations and various dynamics—are desperate to have their children back to a normal routine.
While this proposal is an attempt at normalcy based on increased in-person days alone, the way we understand that the CDC guidance will be implemented is such that teachers and staff will be required to enforce a school day that actually moves us much further away from “normal.” The days will be shorter and will confine movement and interaction between children and teachers, significantly limiting meaningful learning at a time they so desperately need it.
This proposal may be effective in the middle school and high school group, but the impacts would be disproportionately negative for younger children. Little bodies need to move and they have less control over their biological and emotional needs. The logistics of managing this strict environment with twice the number of children will result in lots of rule enforcement and not a lot of academic or social/emotional development. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that "reducing classmate interactions/play in elementary school-aged children may not provide enough COVID-19 risk reduction to justify potential harms." The implementation of the proposal for Rowe and YES would create potential harm that outweighs the actual COVID risk to this age group.
Furthermore, adding two additional in-person days actually removes the two relatively “high quality” days of our current hybrid model and replaces them with four “low quality” in-person days, which feels like a net loss. With only six weeks left in the school year once this proposal would become active, it seems like a lot of unnecessary change and angst for younger students. Our youngest learners are so dependent on routine and consistency, and this plan will upend that yet again, particularly if the already-delayed academic plan must be paused yet again to teach new safety protocols and routines. If that time is already built in at the beginning of every year, why go through it now when the systems they'll be learning in the fall may be totally different yet again?
Finally, with more students in school each day, one positive case will not simply double the resulting quarantines' size—instead, they would have an exponentially more wide-reaching impact. That fact alone seems like an unreasonable risk so close to the end of the year. This letter also comes to you just as Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said Monday that she feels a sense of "impending doom" over a rush to prematurely relax public health restrictions. "We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope, but right now I'm scared," Walensky said. So while the CDC is calling loudly for restrictions to be "maintained," how can we sanction such a move when summer is just a few weeks away? Walensky added: “As a wife, mother, daughter, physician & CDC Director, I ask you to hold on a little while longer.”
We are all looking forward to the time when schools can return to unrestricted in-person instruction, but the implementation of this proposal appears to require a huge cost at the expense of our children, with no clear payoff—and so much to lose. For this reason, I do not support the implementation model of the proposed plan for Rowe and YES. A one-size-fits-all approach does not benefit K-4 students and will potentially cause more harm than good.