State Sen. Josh Becker wants all San Mateo County schools to reopen for in-person learning once the county enters the less restrictive red tier-- which the county announced it will enter Feb. 24 — he told The Almanac.
Becker, D-Menlo Park, said the social and emotional costs to students of distance learning are too high, he said.
"Safety comes first, but data is showing that there is a pathway," he said. "We can get kids back safely and protect teachers and students, and not lose a generation. We can't afford to lose those critical academic years."
Other schools have found ways to safely reopen with little to no transmission of the virus between teachers and students, according to recent studies. If that means school officials need to buy more air purifiers, then they should buy more air purifiers, he said.
Becker said the medical science and data show masking, vaccines (the county began vaccinating teachers this week), air filtration systems and common sense steps will protect communities from virus outbreaks when schools reopen.
"We're seeing school is much more than just learning," he said. "That's the priority."
The "severe" mental health impacts of social isolation on teens are many, according to recent data from UCSF:
• 75% increase in children requiring immediate hospitalization for mental health needs
• Children's Hospital in Oakland has seen a 130% increase in number of children requiring hospitalization for eating disorders
• The percentage of children screening positive for recent or active suicidal thoughts increased threefold from March to October
Becker, who has a freshman and a junior at Menlo-Atherton High School, said he wouldn't send his own children back to school if he didn't think it was safe to do so.
Several of the counties' public schools (and no public high school) districts are open for in-person instruction. Menlo Park City, Las Lomitas Elementary, Woodside Elementary and Portola Valley school districts are among those that began offering in-person learning this fall.
This call comes the same day that parents and students in the Sequoia Union High School District have planned a rally at the district office, urging officials to reopen local high schools for in-person learning as soon as the county enters the red tier.
Two weeks ago, Becker urged San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to set aside a week to vaccinate teachers and school district employees who have direct contact with children before the county made the announcement it would begin vaccinating educators this week.
With San Mateo County averaging 9,000 doses per week, and the number of teachers in the county at 5,000, Becker said that the overall numbers allow for a countywide vaccination effort that can be managed efficiently.