With the Omicron variant surging across the United States, unions shut down a record number of schools this past week.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, school systems across the nation have attempted to navigate the challenges presented by the virus. Most schools switched over to some form of remote learning. Yet as vaccines and further safety precautions were implemented, kids gradually returned to their schools.
The introduction of the Omicron variant has caused more setbacks though. The variant has spread in record numbers, and it’s led to further shutdowns. In fact, hundreds of thousands of students were forced to learn remotely once again this week. A record 4,783 schools closed as cities across the nation transitioned to distanced learning. Of the 98,000 schools in America, 4,783 did not offer in-person learning on one or more days this week, according to the Burbio tracker.
In Chicago, 635 schools canceled classes on Thursday alone. Chicago Teachers’ Union members chose to suspend in-person learning with a 73% vote. On Friday, classes were canceled for the third day in a row. States such as Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania also closed a large number of schools due to the virus.
Omicron Continues To Spread, But Politicians Are Pushing Back Against Closures
Thousands of schools have closed as a safety precaution for children’s physical health as Omicron continues to spread. In contrast, recent studies are questioning the impact closures will have on kids’ mental health as well.
The recent school closures follow further research on the impact of the virus to children’s health. Pediatricians have warned parents about possible lasting damage done to a child’s mental health from not attending school. In October, American Academy of Pediatrics president Dr. Lee Savio Beers spoke about the mental health aspect of the virus.
“Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic,” Dr. Beers stated. “And while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients.”
There is data to suggest that the Covid-19 pandemic is already having a serious impact on kids’ mental health. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 visited emergency mental health departments 24% more than they did in 2019. Ages 12 to 17 visited mental health professionals 31% more compared to the previous year. The pandemic and its variants, such as Delta and Omicron, have had an impact on us all. But it’s been particularly difficult for children of all ages, and that’s why some politicians are adamantly against school closures.
New York City mayor Eric Adams oversees the largest school district in the nation. NYC has almost one million students, but Adams is steadfast when it comes to schools remaining open.
Additionally, Arizona governor Doug Ducey announced a new initiative aimed at keeping children in school. The “Open for Learning Recovery Benefit” program is giving parents up to $7,000. The education-related aid can go toward child care, online tutoring, or can help with the costs of enrollment in private schools.