COVID-19: TOWARD A SAFE RE-ENTRY IN OUR SCHOOLS
SCASD serves thousands of families, employs hundreds of teachers & staff
We need kids in schools full-time as soon as we can get them there. As a parent, Peter knows how hard it is on his own son and himself to be cooped up at home. Truly, the stress of being isolated from our peers weighs on all of us.
Over the last several months, Peter has tried to get testing available to teachers and advocated for increased funding and now vaccinations for teachers. But, like Dr. Fauci has said, we need the best protocols in place and for everyone--teachers, staff, students, and guest--to follow them. To make sure that our community is strong, we need good information, ongoing monitoring, and strict observance. We are only as strong as our weakest links.
That's why Peter am committed to the following principles:
Peter will work to get as many of our kids back in school and on the field as possible, always relying on the expertise of medical professionals and epidemiologists.
He will advocate for teachers and all school staff to be vaccinated immediately. While recent science says that transmission rates in schools are minimal compared to other environments, teachers' peace of mind matters.
He will support mental health for our kids and all of our staff and teachers. With anxiety and depression already under-reported and under-treated before COVID-19, we need to do all we can to support their empowerment and efficacy.
An epidemiologist from the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics told me, “We have to go from firehose to garden hose.” It looks as though when we take Penn State students out of the mix, the broader SCASD community is doing well. People are masking up, staying physically distant, and washing their hands. It's been generally heartening to see our community persist through this challenging time.
It is still necessary to maintain distance while we ramp up testing statewide and follow it with contact tracing. That way we can map the disease’s trajectory. But wearing a mask, distancing and being sanitary are the most important things that we can do as individuals. The vast majority of us understand this and will do it anyway. But should be requirements, investments in our common health and well-being. The Commonwealth, likely in partnership with universities, medical firms, other states and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, should increase investment in research and development of equipment, treatment methods and vaccines while supporting professionals who are on the front lines.
WHAT'S GOING ON?
With COVID-19 numbers still high in the State College area, the health, safety and well-being of our teachers, staff, and students is top of my mind every day. When Penn State students returned last fall, it plunged many people into a state of worry. As the winter has progressed, many continue to see if the shoe will drop. What would happen if there was a community outbreak, to people’s health, to schools and to businesses that rely on Penn State for them to thrive?
Luckily, our community has had few deaths, though I personally know too many people have lost loved ones or are permanently disabled by the disease. Sadly, we all know unemployed and underemployed friends and family who need our help. Truly, it has been a reckoning and my heart goes out to the families of nearly 500,000 people who have been taken from us in the last year.
COVID-19 is doing something few other things could have: It’s shown how so many can come together and shown, in stark relief, the intense inequality in Pennsylvania and this District. Over the last year, Peter has been inspired by the community coming together to support families who needed food, to see the district try to get a hot spot to every home, and people reaching out to connect. Kindness matters.
But we see a dark side too: The lack of rural broadband in some parts of the district show us that our state leaders have too-long ignored modern infrastructure. For some of our families who have no or little savings, it placed them on a knife’s edge for staying in their homes. We are truly blessed to have community organizations, faith groups, and great neighbors. But our government leaders could be doing better by us.