Johns Hopkins experts recommend students return to school in-person, in most cases

Posted at 4:04 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 07:00:49-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — As cases rise and the new school year approaches, the decision to send kids in person is more complicated than ever, especially for parents of children under 12 and cannot be vaccinated.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 cases among children and teens jumped 84% in a week, causing some parents to worry about sending their children back in person.

But Johns Hopkins experts said during a Thursday virtual press conference that in most cases, where the children did not excel with virtual learning and all reasonable precautions are being taken in school, it’s more risky not to send them.

"It’s actually more dangerous right now to get into a car for a half hour trip in a city than it is for a child to go to school. The problem here is that we are not used to evaluating risks," said David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy.

"It’s easy to see the health risk. It’s harder to see the social-emotional-learning risk but those together are greater than the health risk, except I would say in extreme cases," said Robert Balfanz, director of the Johns Hopkins Everyone Graduates Center.

Steiner said achievement gaps are greater than ever after COVID and schools can best address them in person by focusing on accelerating kids, instead of looking backward… so keeping them on grade level with extra supports.

"We are going to have to give up on some knowledge, some skills. As long as they show that they can manage some key standards, some key skills, some key knowledge, that will be a tremendous success psychologically for the children," said Steiner.

Experts said districts are and will continue to be challenged as cases rise. Some are thinking about hybrid again or extending virtual learning deadlines.

"Parent choice right now is the most important conversation I think in the school reopening plan. We have to consider what parents want for their children," said Annette Anderson, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Safe and Healthy Schools.

As parents decide what to do, Anderson recommends investigating what your schools COVID response plan is.

Belfanz said if you have the opportunity and choose to keep your child virtual, research has shown a few things are key: making sure there are no connectivity issues, the students have access to good digital materials and there is support in the home for the student.

Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties and Baltimore City are all requiring face masks in schools this fall.