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Pandemic’s effect on kids should be the focus

At some point during the hopefully not-too-distant future, whether or not COVID-19 has been defeated or at least relegated to an ailment no worse than the “common” flu, school districts of this region should launch a cooperative mission aimed at assessing fully the impact of the pandemic on their students and, perhaps as much as possible beyond that, students’ households.

Regardless of the methodology used to turn the information into a comprehensive “manual” for future reference, the important point is what educators, schools, parents and school districts are learning from COVID-19 must never be allowed to drift away into some memory “forgotten land.”

Meanwhile, going forward, there never must be complacency about the possibility that another pandemic, perhaps one worse than COVID-19, could challenge this planet.

That is troubling to ponder, but it is not an unknown that can accommodate a lackadaisical attitude.

In his “The Morning” New York Times newsletter this past Tuesday, David Leonhardt discussed the crisis that the pandemic has created for American children.

Leonhardt began with the chilling observation that “I have long been aware that the pandemic was upending children’s lives. But until I spent time pulling together data and reading reports, I did not understand just how alarming the situation had become.”

Then he listed and discussed seven major problems about which every parent — indeed, every adult — should be deeply troubled, because the problems’ dreadful impacts are not likely to be short-lived. The problems noted by Leonhardt, based on his stated research:

¯ Many children who fell far behind in school during the first year of the pandemic still have not caught up with the levels of educational attainment that were routine prior to COVID-19.

¯ Many teenagers and other children continue to experience mental health problems stemming from the virus and the variants that have complicated efforts to defeat it.

¯ Suicide attempts have multiplied.

¯ There has been an increase in gun violence against children.

¯ Learning loss and social isolation have worsened, a product of many schools not having returned to normal.

¯ Schools across the country are reporting an uptick in disruptive behaviors.

¯ Children’s lives again are being scrambled, this time by the omicron variant.

Leonhardt went on to note that “for the past two years, large parts of American society have decided harming children was an unavoidable side effect of COVID-19. And that was probably true in the spring of 2020, when nearly all of society shut down to slow the spread of a deadly and mysterious virus.”

But he was right in observing that approach has been less defensible for the past year and a half, as more about COVID and the extent of children’s suffering from pandemic restrictions has been learned.

What about the pandemic’s effects and long-term impacts on children of the counties of Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 could be the lead entity in a compilation that would be a valuable information resource for now and the future, in this region and likely beyond.

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