Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
A little over two years after the start of widespread shutdowns of the nation’s schools during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and following the emergence of a steady flow of evidence that children were harmed immensely by COVID measures, a bipartisan group of senators is pushing for a study that would, in theory, yield data that would prevent lopsided reactions to future emergencies.
“Students need to be in school, and we are only beginning to understand the impact of school closures on kids and teenagers,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said in a statement. “It’s clear that more research needs to be done so we can better assess learning loss and social impacts, as well as other effects. The results of this study will help give us a roadmap to figuring out how we can best help our kids and support their education.”
Hassan, along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), introduced a bill on Friday that would authorize the Department of Education to gather longitudinal data – information collected from the same population of students over many years – about the effects of school closures on students’ academic, physical, and mental development and wellbeing.
“From learning loss to mental health crises, the damaging effects of school closures on our nation’s children are already undeniable,” Scott said. “If we want to move forward, we must examine the long-term repercussions for today’s youth, who will be tomorrow’s leaders. The success of our nation depends on it.”
The introduction of the “Assessing Children’s Academic Development and the Emotional and Mental Health Implications of COVID-19” (ACADEMIC) Act followed a Washington Post report that revealed schools that bucked COVID closure trends better served their students.
One school in particular, Lewis-Palmer District 38 near Colorado Springs, showed remarkable results after it went back to fully in-person elementary school with hybrid middle and high school programs. The modality change was coupled with the return of extracurricular activities and a mask-optional policy.
Students in that district, on balance, improved in their reading skills and maintained their performance level on the SAT. Lewis-Palmer students dipped in their math performance, but to a lesser degree than their locked-down counterparts in Colorado.
“We didn’t just exist through the pandemic,” Mark Belcher, the school district’s communications director, told the Post. “We made progress through the pandemic.”
The evidence that COVID responses have created a burden on childhood development and threats to mental health among children and adults has become so widespread as to be undeniable by even the most ardent supporter of prolonged lockdowns and school closures. In the last six months, FISM has reported on everyone from the United Nations to the U.S. Surgeon General to an op-ed writer from the New York Times acknowledging the crisis.