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State Sen. Josh Becker calls for schools to reopen once San Mateo County enters red tier

Becker: Social and emotional costs to students of distance learning are too high

An empty classroom on the Woodside High School campus on July 20, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, is calling for schools in San Mateo County to reopen. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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.

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"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

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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.

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State Sen. Josh Becker calls for schools to reopen once San Mateo County enters red tier

Becker: Social and emotional costs to students of distance learning are too high

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 23, 2021, 4:57 pm

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.

Comments

Erica
Registered user
Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 23, 2021 at 6:25 pm
Erica, Portola Valley: Ladera
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2021 at 6:25 pm

Thank you for your leadership on this issue! It is imperative that schools across CA, including high schools, reopen for in-person learning as soon as possible. As Burbio data indicate, CA is 49th out of 50 states in reopening. This is a disgrace. We are doing our children a huge disservice by not opening schools and providing them with the public education to which they are entitled. Science indicates convincingly that schools can be reopened safely for both students and teachers, but that school closures are doing serious harm to our children. Follow the science and reopen in red!


Walter Alvarado
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 24, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Walter Alvarado, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 5:57 pm

I am tired of people saying they love their teachers and then treating them like dirt. Reopening schools will not provide the social interactions of pre-pandemic times with everyone six feet apart. Mr. Becker, who is supposed to buy the air purifiers and with what money? Have you done anything to pass legislation to support schools in this time of need? Have you actually read the studies where there was little to no transmission? A school district in Wisconsin and were the kids tested daily to see if they had the virus but not the outward symptoms? You say you are worried about losing a generation. Some have already lost one, grandmothers and grandfathers; not everyone has the lifestyle you enjoy.
It past time that we can look the other way and pretend schools can just make things happen magically without the proper support.


pdjones
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 24, 2021 at 6:31 pm
pdjones , Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 6:31 pm

Yes, school closures are harmful on many levels and I agree that schools should be opened as soon as reasonable. Here are a few questions:
1. What is the plan that ensures the communities with the highest number of cases (per 10,000 population), low vaccination rate, will have all the resources needed to safely reopen?
2. Will the State or the counties take on the cost to properly fund schools without the financial resources to do their own funding?
3. What is the plan if a classroom or school and/or community has an increase in infections?
The key is safely opening.


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