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Kathleen Bethel: Keep your kids home during pandemic; they will turn out just fine
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Kathleen Bethel: Keep your kids home during pandemic; they will turn out just fine

OPINION: Will it be better to keep your kid home from school?

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The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Your kids will be fine. I promise.

It doesn’t matter if they miss out on attending school in-person for a while longer. As long as they are safe.

As a former principal — and someone who missed two and a half years of school myself while in and out of the hospital — I know whereof I speak.

Your kids are far more resilient than you think. They’ll bounce back. Their academic health is less of a concern than their physical health right now.

You can lead them through this — even if their friends’ parents decide to send their kids back to school. Because I’ve got a little secret for you.

Their progress in school is not as dependent on the time they spend in their seats as you may think. As a matter of fact, it’s less.

Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of proposed in-school time may consist of this year — kids sitting in their seats, in straight rows, facing the front. It takes education back 50 years.

It brings back nightmares of little boys who were labeled as naughty just for squirming in their seats rather than seen as perfectly normal humans needing to move.

With the proposed removal of small-group learning centers to make room for social distancing and crayon and book sharing forbidden, there’s already a reduction in the value of in-person attendance.

It takes away the very best reason for sending kids to school — socialization. Take away libraries and cafeterias and the value of at-school attendance is further reduced.

And I wonder how we’ll prevent the unrestrained rough and tumble contact of kids released to a playground. Good luck social distancing that, if recess is even permitted.

And then there are the restrooms. I’m not sure 500 kids sharing just two to three restrooms — at least twice a day — is wise.

Questions abound about cleaning, safety precautions and what will happen when a teacher, custodian or when a child’s parents are diagnosed. Does the whole class or school get tested? Or quarantined? It brings up questions about new policies and procedures.

But that’s not your concern right now, because even though in-school attendance may be right for some states, you live in Arizona, where it’s not time yet.

No matter what noble teachers post, neither they nor our children should be the sacrificial lambs. No matter what others sitting safely in a sterile offices in another state may say, our kids aren’t canaries in the coal mine.

We don’t know if it’s safe here in our state, yet. Not for your child. So wait.

Wait until meetings of district leaders are in person — not on Zoom. Wait for government officials to convene for full days, weeks at a time, in person.

Wait until pediatricians declare it’s safe to return only after sitting on small chairs seven hours a day in a bare classroom with a shared restroom — and no medical assistant sanitizing after each visit.

Wait until a pilot study concludes how long 6-year-olds can go without touching their mask. Or test it yourself. It’ll take mere minutes.

Wait until science gives us answers. Government leaders don’t know your child or their friends. They don’t live in Arizona, where the spread of COVID-19 is greatest yet our state is doing the least.

Shouldn’t something different, something more, be happening here?

Since it’s not, that something different may have to be you — the parent who leads their child through this, safely and wisely, knowing your child will not fall irrevocably behind.

Keep them home. Because no child I know is worth the risk.

Certainly not yours.

Kathleen Bethel is a retired principal, retired science nonprofit CEO and a 2018 Tucson Public Voices fellow.

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