Not always 'Safer at Home'

Playground sign says “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” but that is not always true, according to a social worker who is concerned about students not in safe home environments.

Marcia Roberts-Sebold submitted a letter to Rice Lake School District Administrator Randy Drost to be shared during the public appearances time of the virtual Board of Education meeting Monday.

She shared, “As a social worker of 20 plus years, a parent, and concerned citizen, I want to address the school board with regard to providing in-person school during the summer and when school resumes in the fall.  

“In my role as a social worker, I have heard over the years from a significant number of children, themselves, how they are being hurt at home, and I have witnessed home environments that are unsafe.  Unfortunately, the ‘Safer at Home’ order was not SAFE for many children.  Children are SAFE AT SCHOOL.  School provides structured, predictable, safe environments in which students are surrounded by trained, caring adults to address the physical, nutritional, social and emotional and mental health needs of children of all ages.

“According to the CDC, there were 29 deaths of children ages 0-14 from COVID-19 from February 20, 2020 to May 30, 2020.   For ages 0-24, there were a total of 126 deaths.  From the same time frame and ages 0-24, there were 147 deaths from influenza.  Not minimizing those deaths, by any means, as they are all tragic; however, these numbers cannot support a reduced schedule or children not returning to school full time for just a COVID-19 related closure.  Based on these statistics and others, schools should close every year for influenza, but that is not what happens.   

“When students are in school, not only are school staff keeping children safe as possible by giving them education and adult oversight, they are also giving them the opportunity to learn in a safe environment that is conducive to learning. Not every student has a home environment with close adult supervision for them to experience the same level of education as they would in school.  Students are losing out on not only academic opportunities, they also are missing out an array of other opportunities, i.e., opportunities to increase social skills, build relationships, participate in athletic and club activities, etc.  Keeping students out of school also increases inequities among our students and families.

“A majority of households have all the adults working and are unable to provide supervision, care, and instruction.  As a working parent, even though my daughter is old enough to self-direct her education, younger children are not able to self-direct their education.  This structure slightly worked this spring as many parents were laid off, furloughed, and/or were able to work from home.  However, this most likely no longer will be the case in the fall.  

“In my opinion as a parent, a member of the school district, and a social worker, it is imperative for the safety of the children (socially, emotionally, academically) that we strongly consider providing summer school and opening our schools at full capacity in the fall.  I understand there might be thoughts about opening at a lesser capacity; my question is, where do the children go when they are not in school?  

“I would encourage board members to seek out information from the professionals in the school setting, i.e. the psychologists, school social workers, teachers, other pupil services professionals,  as well as parents in our community to be informed in regards to the significant impact that the ‘Safer at Home’ order has had on children. Not providing summer school and not having school at the full capacity in the fall would further negatively impact a majority of the children in the Rice Lake Area School District.”

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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