Tuesday, July 23, 2024

In the era of Covid, everyone has become used to making hard choices and balancing risks. As a group of parents with in-person learners who were abruptly switched to remote as of Thursday, we believe Cambridge schools are not balancing these risks properly and should return to in-person school no later than Dec. 17. We can speak from our firsthand knowledge that closing in-person classrooms carries a great risk of harm to our children’s mental, physical, social and educational well-being.

Each of the parents who signed onto this letter made the choice to have their children return in-person to school this fall. Each of us had to weigh the uncertainty of what risks that return would bring against the possibility of continued remote learning. And each of us made that choice and are glad that we did.

What we saw when our children returned to school, in many cases, surprised us. The return to the classroom changed our children for the better in a way that was beyond our expectations. We saw a brightness and happiness in our kids that many of us thought wasn’t possible anymore. We also saw, in stark relief, how severely they had been suffering when schools were closed in a way that wasn’t apparent until they returned.

We are all dreading what the recent, abrupt switch back to remote learning will bring and feel that the risk of harm to our children’s mental health is far greater than the very low risk of transmission of Covid in school. It is well known that not being in school places children at risk for anxiety and depression, social and emotional harm, falling behind academically and financial burdens for their families. One of the signers of this letter is a pediatrician. Another, a therapist, has said that the effects of closing in-person school yet again will have severe and long-lasting effects that the students and school district will deal with for years. All of us, as parents, have seen with our own eyes the positive behavioral and emotional changes in our kids when they returned to the classroom.

It is also well known that the risk of Covid is very low in schools. Among our signers are a virologist, three physicians, two of whom hold master’s degrees in public health and a third with a doctorate in psychology working in Covid contract tracing and case investigation research. They are very comfortable with their children being physically in school. Schools in many other towns have managed to remain open, some even expanding their in-person offering.  In those that shut down, Covid numbers rose on a trajectory no different than in the areas where they remained open. In other words, school closings do not lower infection rates, and the risk of in-school transmission is lower than in the general public.

Many businesses in Cambridge have remained open, with decision-makers weighing the economic impact of a shutdown against the risk of Covid transmission, which is higher than in-school transmission. If it is safe enough for businesses to remain open, then it must be safe enough for schools to remain open. The emotional, social and mental health of our children and the financial health of their families must be given at least the same weight as the considerations that are keeping businesses open.

Parents of in-person learners have a perspective that no other group in this discussion has, and we urgently want our children to remain in the classroom. We want their needs to be weighted as if they matter, because they do.

Kate Skubecz and Sam Murphy, parents of third- and seventh-graders
Alexandra Landman and Rogier Landman, parents of junior kindergarten and third-grader
Catherine Rich and Andrew Groh, parents of third-grader
Jessica Bozek and Eli Queen, parents of third-grader
Sam Ling, parent of third-grader
Whitney and Andrew Schutzbank, parents of a kindergartener and a third-grader
Xian Ho, parent of kindergarten and third-graders
Debbie Colley, parent of first- and third-graders
Christine Chow, parent of first- and third- graders