Covid, Kids, and New Hanover Schools
Currently, there’s a big debate in our community over COVID, COVID protocols and quarantines. I want to start by saying that COVID-19 is a real sickness, that thankfully at large does NOT negatively affect children. This needs to be the premise of having the conversation. As a board we need to separate and look at data in comparison for our demographic which is at large children. Per CDC data, COVID deaths in kids under 18 is less than 0.1%, which is actually better than the survival rate of a vaccinated adult. Due to the fact that the developmental needs of a child includes social-emotional health, cognitive development and academics I believe it is in the best interest of the parents or guardians to decide whether or not their child should be masked while at school, in particular seated in the classroom. In addition I believe parents should make the medical choice to vaccinate their child.
Preemptively Quarantine at the Discretion of Parents and Guardians
Quarantine discrepancies in public school has also been a very frustrating process. There are no clearly defined school board policies that state children are not allowed to be on school grounds for an extended amount of time for quarantine. The current situation utilizes health department nurses to identify quarantine exposures. The quarantine exposure should be given to the parents and family by the health department, and when the family decides to send their non-symptomatic child to school should be up to them, not schools. The health department should only be releasing COVID numbers in quarantines and number of COVID cases to schools, not outwardly identifying to schools names of who actually is sick or in quarantine. The schools should only have knowledge of that information if the family contacts the schools directly. The reason for this is two fold for me:
- Some children are literally more at risk of being out of school, than staying in school. We have seen this unfold in our community unfortunately with a shooting at a high school as well as a recent suicide. Placing quarantines back in the hands or parents or guardians can hopefully slow this fallout cycle. Parenting is standing up for what your child needs. COVID is one piece of that large puzzle. Our community needs to understand for kids, the mental health and COVID restrictions for many of them have been devastating. As we move forward we need to respect the differences in how each family responds.
- From October 2020 to June 4, 2021 our school district placed 1864 individuals into quarantine and only 26 resulted in COVID positive cases. That is a 1.4% COVID spread, while a 98.6% unnecessary learning loss. Last year the need for quarantines was more necessary due to the fact the large part of our immune compromised community did not have access to a vaccine. That is not the case this year. In my opinion it is not worth the unnecessary learning loss of 98.6% of our students to hopefully slow the spread by 1.4%. It is a compounding effect since our kids that would be hurt the most by this are students that are already behind, amplifying the heavy burden already placed on our teachers.
As we move forward the comfort level of all types of people will look different, however it is my opinion to not berate, ostracize, or disrespect those individuals choosing to mask, those choosing to not mask, vaccinated individuals, unvaccinated individuals or those who refuse to answer that question. Everyone will evaluate their own risk, and simply will do what is in the best interest for their family. Parents deserve to make medical decisions on behalf of their child. My job will be to adequately make positive changes for their academic development.
The graph below, uses NCDHHS hospitalization data. It compares total hospitalization numbers to those hospitalized that are under 18.