Despite Unknowns About Virus, Health Experts Encourage In-Person Learning

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Connecticut students will have the opportunity to receive full-time in-person instruction to start the next school year.

Guidance just released from the American Academy of Pediatrics supports that goal.

“Children really need that structure, they need that routine,” said Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s also not only for the academic learning. It’s for the social, emotional and behavioral things that they get out of being in school.”

Kevin McMahon of the Community Child Guidance Clinic said parents should present a positive outlook when talking to their children about returning to the classroom in the fall.

“Come back to the kids with as much enthusiasm about how this is an opportunity. 'You’re going to get to see your friends again, you’re gonna get your routine back, you’re gonna see your teachers your friends, your life is going to be back,'” said McMahon.

McMahon said the coronavirus pandemic has created anxiety in children.

“We’re working with kids now that we normally wouldn’t have seen before but are going through some of those issues,” he said. “It’s reasonable that people are going to continue to have fears, adults and children alike.”

“My friends and I, we were close. I got to talk with them all the time but now with the online learning, I don’t get to do that anymore,” said Adam Tartt, a soon-to-be sixth grader in New Britain.

Tartt and his brothers, fourth-grader Ayyub and second-grader Bilal, said they’re looking forward to seeing their teachers, too. However, there’s some apprehension about wearing masks and returning to a regular workload.

“I’m nervous because it’s gonna be a little harder because then we’re gonna get more work,” said Ayyub.

“With the uncertainty of everything, it’s nerve-wracking to think about letting these guys back out to a social situation where we’re not right with them,” explained their mother, Kathleen Tartt. “We have mixed emotions. We feel like it would probably be good for them to get back in the classroom so they can get acclimated to their new environments.”

Tori Torres, also of New Britain, said she hasn’t told her daughters, ages five and seven, that they’ll be back in the classroom come fall.

“It’s summer. I don’t want them to have to worry about it. I know in the beginning they were kind of upset that they weren’t going to back to school so I don’t want to get their hopes up that they are going back,” she explained.

McMahon said it’s important for parents to lay out a plan together and leave the emotion out when presenting it to their kids.

“Have conversations with each other, but don’t do it in front of the kids,” he said.

Goza said based on what we know about the coronavirus today, schools should make every effort to bring students back for in-person learning.

Being out of school created a negative impact on some children, including depression, abuse and neglect, according to Goza.

“Those things are not being picked up because nobody really has their eyes on those children except for the parents. We’re seeing more teen depression, even in younger children, more depression and anxiety and substance abuse, and even suicide attempts,” she said.

Both Goza and McMahon said a return to regular schedule should help shift children back to a better place, mentally and emotionally.

At the end of the day it’s not about throwing them back into it, it’s about walking them back into it and helping them feel good about going back in.”

Connecticut’s education commissioner said the state will recommend schools require students K-12 wear masks during the school day.

To give your child a sense of ownership in the process, McMahon suggested letting them pick out their own mask and start practicing with it right away. If your child worries that they fell behind while learning at home, he said to reassure them they are not alone and will be in the same place at many of their classmates when they return to school.

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