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Opinion: Why we decided to send our kids back to school

Menlo-Atherton High School math teacher and athletic director Steve Kryger teaches advanced algebra II to in-person and remote students in Atherton on April 6, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Last week, my two kids returned to high school. They sat in an actual classroom and spoke to their teachers and friends, in person. This is something they have done countless times growing up. But for over a year, neither one of them had been inside a classroom. Our school gave families the option to go back, and we discussed it with our kids and said yes.

My family is not alone.

In California, we say trust the data and the science. Both show that it is safe to return to school. As Dr. Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, has said, "It's possible to open schools safely — it's being done."

There are dozens of reports from around the country that support this assertion. Experts at UCSF recently cited CDC studies in Wisconsin and North Carolina that all showed K-12 schools can have in-person learning with limited in-school COVID-19 spread, and no spread is known to have occurred to or from staff.

This has been an incredibly difficult year for teachers. I believe it is important that our teachers feel as safe as possible. That is why I called for prioritizing teachers for the vaccine back in December. Now all teachers and staff in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have been given the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Most are now fully vaccinated, and all available data shows that once vaccinated you can't transmit the virus.

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Evidence also demonstrates that K-12 schools that have implemented prevention strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open. As a result, states such as Florida have been back five days a week since September to some form of in-person learning without major outbreaks of COVID-19.

We can do the same here in California. We have the benefit of incorporating the proven best practices from around the country, and we have extensive resources to do so, along with a much lower community transmission rate. Due to our temperate climate, we can cut down on airborne particles with more ventilation by opening windows and installing MERV filters. Masks work and 3 feet of separation will help keep our schools safe, even without a broadly vaccinated community. The CDC has called for children to return to American classrooms as soon as possible, and with adequate masking, distancing, and ventilation, the benefits of opening schools outweigh the risks of keeping kids at home. To ensure our schools are able to implement such measures, I voted for an additional $6.6 billion in funding for school safety.

The past year has been unimaginably difficult for all of us. We have all suffered in different ways. For many students and parents, this suffering has been particularly acute. I have seen firsthand the mental and emotional toll this takes as I have watched my own kids struggle with distance learning and isolation. The negative consequences and loss of learning are significant, and the long-term impact is unclear.

This is why it's imperative that we return, as much as science allows, to normal in the fall with school five days a week with full instructional minutes.

Now that we see that bright light at the end of the tunnel, and we have the science and data to prove it, it is time to reopen our schools, while allowing for flexibility for those with risk factors as we have always done. For the majority of children in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, it is reasonable, responsible and delightful to allow them to pack a lunch, strap on their backpacks and head back to the wonderful schools our community is fortunate to have.

Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, represents California's 13th Senate district in the state Legislature.

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Opinion: Why we decided to send our kids back to school

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Sat, May 1, 2021, 8:56 am

Last week, my two kids returned to high school. They sat in an actual classroom and spoke to their teachers and friends, in person. This is something they have done countless times growing up. But for over a year, neither one of them had been inside a classroom. Our school gave families the option to go back, and we discussed it with our kids and said yes.

My family is not alone.

In California, we say trust the data and the science. Both show that it is safe to return to school. As Dr. Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, has said, "It's possible to open schools safely — it's being done."

There are dozens of reports from around the country that support this assertion. Experts at UCSF recently cited CDC studies in Wisconsin and North Carolina that all showed K-12 schools can have in-person learning with limited in-school COVID-19 spread, and no spread is known to have occurred to or from staff.

This has been an incredibly difficult year for teachers. I believe it is important that our teachers feel as safe as possible. That is why I called for prioritizing teachers for the vaccine back in December. Now all teachers and staff in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties have been given the opportunity to receive the vaccine. Most are now fully vaccinated, and all available data shows that once vaccinated you can't transmit the virus.

Evidence also demonstrates that K-12 schools that have implemented prevention strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open. As a result, states such as Florida have been back five days a week since September to some form of in-person learning without major outbreaks of COVID-19.

We can do the same here in California. We have the benefit of incorporating the proven best practices from around the country, and we have extensive resources to do so, along with a much lower community transmission rate. Due to our temperate climate, we can cut down on airborne particles with more ventilation by opening windows and installing MERV filters. Masks work and 3 feet of separation will help keep our schools safe, even without a broadly vaccinated community. The CDC has called for children to return to American classrooms as soon as possible, and with adequate masking, distancing, and ventilation, the benefits of opening schools outweigh the risks of keeping kids at home. To ensure our schools are able to implement such measures, I voted for an additional $6.6 billion in funding for school safety.

The past year has been unimaginably difficult for all of us. We have all suffered in different ways. For many students and parents, this suffering has been particularly acute. I have seen firsthand the mental and emotional toll this takes as I have watched my own kids struggle with distance learning and isolation. The negative consequences and loss of learning are significant, and the long-term impact is unclear.

This is why it's imperative that we return, as much as science allows, to normal in the fall with school five days a week with full instructional minutes.

Now that we see that bright light at the end of the tunnel, and we have the science and data to prove it, it is time to reopen our schools, while allowing for flexibility for those with risk factors as we have always done. For the majority of children in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, it is reasonable, responsible and delightful to allow them to pack a lunch, strap on their backpacks and head back to the wonderful schools our community is fortunate to have.

Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, represents California's 13th Senate district in the state Legislature.

Comments

The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 1, 2021 at 11:42 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 11:42 am

Another “open the schools” article this time written by a Senator.
1. I’m tired of “trust the data and science.” The “data and science” of the Wisconsin/North Carolina studies the CDC used to promote the lie that schools are somehow a bastion safety during a deadly pandemic are based on small, perfect world scenarios in rural areas. Do a simple google search for “coronavirus school outbreaks” and see what comes up.
2. The CDC schools reopening guidance is politically motivated to herd children back into classrooms so parents can go back to work for economic purposes. The CDC have recommended that staff return unvaccinated, that schools can somehow be open safely with community transmission at any level, and now they have bent science for “3 feet instead of 6 feet” for children so more can fit into classrooms.
3. I’m tired of pediatricians like Dr. Lee chiming their two cents in about how it’s safe and everything. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 3.71 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic last year. What would have happened Dr. Lee if schools would have been left open?
4. Florida has been open 5 days but they have had outbreaks in schools. Whistleblower Rebekah Jones created a dashboard tracking the under reporting in Florida by DeSantis and was subsequently fired and then brought up on trumped up charges in an effort to discredit her. Currently there are massive infections among children/families due to school reopenings taking place in Michigan, Chicago, and Philadelphia to name just a few.
To the financial elite pushing the false “schools are a bastion of safety” narrative, you control the pandemic first before reopening. All students should have stayed online this school year. Next Fall students should be opening in a hybrid with a push for a full return in 2022 when there is a vaccine available for children under 12. Just look at India if you doubt Covid danger. New variants are also here.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2021 at 11:42 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 11:42 am

They should’ve been in school long ago. Teacher’s unions around the Bay lobbied to get healthy 30 year olds vaccinated in front of actual vulnerable people and STILL refuse to work, children be damned. This minor disease is not historically serious (Ebola, Spanish flu, Black Plague) despite the media’s efforts to convince us otherwise. Now in the face of all the data collected we STILL have people outside in the sunshine, alone, wearing a mask, utterly terrified of fresh air. Yes, yes, I know that a single death is too many... but is it really in the face of all we’ve lost? I’ve been in public every day since this began. It’s no big deal for healthy ppl under 65. I welcomed exposure for me and my family, especially my kids- we have immune systems for a reason folks.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 1, 2021 at 12:03 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 12:03 pm

1. They should’ve been in school long ago.
False. Schools are nonessential and should be closed to control the outbreak.
2. Teachers unions lobbied to get healthy 30 year olds vaccinated/front of actual vulnerable people and STILL refuse to work
This is only partly true. The CDC stated teachers don’t need to be vaccinated to return to work which was completely insane. Even Biden and his spokesperson wouldn’t agree with that statement. That’s when the lobbying began. Biden put teachers and childcare in group 1B anyway to open the economy. But sure “blame the Union.” Also, many teachers are working in person and schools are basically opened. Finally, teachers worked online the whole time. The only thing missing for the most part was the subsidized day care aspect.
3. “This minor disease is not historically serious (Ebola, Spanish flu, Black Plague) despite the media’s efforts to convince us otherwise.”
False. Covid is not a media driven narrative nor is it minor. Your premise comparing it only to the Black Plague, Ebola, and Spanish flu shows just how historically serious it is. In the United States, without massive lockdowns and a vaccine the outbreak would likely have run even more uncontrolled like it did in Brazil and is currently doing in India. During Trumps White House, Trump was presented with information that the U.S. would see 2 million deaths if he didn’t lock the country down.
4. “Yes, yes, I know that a single death is too many... but is it really in the face of all we’ve lost?”
A philosophical question. Yes a single death is too many. If we lost anything blame the previous administration for their poor pandemic response and those that refused to comply with a simple thing like wearing a mask for dragging this out and not the teachers/Union.
5. I’ve been in public every day since this began/no big deal for healthy ppl under 65
Now we nail down where this comes from. It’s the “Covid didn’t happen to me so it’s not that bad” selfishness.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2021 at 9:36 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 9:36 pm

How fortunate for you that you had the *ability* to send your kids back to school! Please help make sure that **all** school districts whose parents (like me) voted you into office, open fully to the extent possible, as Governor Newsom and AB86 require.

For those of us in other districts -- and here I'm speaking mostly of my children's district Palo Alto -- our District leadership is flouting the law without consequence, and still have not opened school for most local students more than partial days, maximum 4 days a week. They even refuse to promise that we will be back to full time education in fall. And as you know, Palo Alto is one of the wealthiest school districts in the country, so lack of funding cannot be the basis of their short-sightedness.

Senator Becker, please know that there are countless parents who would like to make the decision you made, but without our local Districts opening our schools, we cannot. Please help us force our District Administrators to do their jobs.

Thank you.


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2021 at 1:05 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 1:05 pm

I wish the article would specify if Senator Becker's kids returned in-person to a public or private school. I hope he is showing his support for public schools by having his kids attend one.


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 3, 2021 at 6:52 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 3, 2021 at 6:52 pm

Yep, kids need to be back in school. They needed it a long time ago. It's happening slowly, even if it did require a sincere recall threat for our governor to apply the tiniest modicum of pressure.

Incentives explain almost everything. For example, why private soccer academies and private music teachers adapted to Covid within days, literally, and institutions who get paid no matter what decided to wait around for 18 months for the smoke to clear.


Josh Becker
Registered user
Menlo Park
on May 4, 2021 at 6:46 pm
Josh Becker, Menlo Park
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 6:46 pm

Yes, our kids are in Public schools. I wrote the piece to emphasize that it's safe to be back and because I want to help make sure we can get all kids back 5 days a week for the Fall. Right now my kids are in school 2 days a week, which is better than nothing but I look forward to the day they will be back 5 days a week. -Josh


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