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LETTERS

Return to schools in Mass. is a process of push and pull

Kids climbed the playground fences after school at the Eliot School in the North End on Oct. 21, 2020.
Kids climbed the playground fences after school at the Eliot School in the North End on Oct. 21, 2020.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Instead of forcing change, board should take its cues from parents, students, and teachers

Re “Schools can be forced to reopen: Vote gives commissioner power to change rules, require in-person classes” (Page A1, March 6): It was interesting to analyze the recent vote of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Every Governor Baker-appointed board member voted to force districts to bring students back to classrooms full time. The three board members who are elected or selected by parents, students, or labor (including teachers) voted to keep these decisions at the local level.

If parents, students, and teachers — the very constituencies who are served by, or are responsible to provide, public school education — are opposed to the state’s being vested with the power to make local educational decisions, why would any board vote against their wishes?

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Once again, the powers that be are making important decisions without regard to those who are most affected rather than working in concert with students, parents, and teachers to chart the course that reflects their ideas and legitimate concerns.

Dan French

President

Board of directors

Citizens for Public Schools

Jamaica Plain


Come sit in those classrooms, Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley

Both Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley should be required to spend one day a week sitting in a school classroom in locations across the state for the next two months.

Unless teachers have been vaccinated, it is wrong to require them to sit in classrooms with unvaccinated students. Since staff are unlikely to get their shots before the end of April, they would be at serious risk for weeks, at least.

Jim Novak

Eastham


This student can speak to challenges of remote learning

Re “Governor Baker is right: Kids need to be back in school” (Editorial, Feb. 26): Online school is not ideal in the slightest, and it was hard for everyone to adjust to learning over a computer screen. Of course, learning online we run into Wi-Fi problems and confusion because there is no in-person interaction.

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Being in school (pre-COVID-19) gave us students a space where we could work with other students and receive direct help from teachers. With school being online, you feel isolated and as though you are losing how to communicate with others face to face.

Reopening schools is going to be greatly beneficial for students because returning to a more normal school environment will provide more motivation and a better way of learning.

Bridgeen Green

Dedham

The writer is a student at Dedham High School.


Key assignment: Address spike in anxiety and depression among students

With educators poised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to in-person learning, our attention turns to addressing the dramatic increase in anxiety and depression among students.

Prior to the pandemic, 75 percent of students with behavioral health needs received services in school. When schools closed, behavioral health services switched to telehealth. While telehealth worked well for many students, others rarely or never engaged in treatment. This decreased access to care contributed to soaring rates of mental health-related emergency room visits for children in crisis, and experts are alarmed at the rise in suicidal ideation and attempts among children.

Before the pandemic, school behavioral health was grossly under-resourced, with widely varying access from community to community. Adding to the burden, many behavioral health staff are responding now to the needs of teachers as well as students.

Schools have never been just about academics. To meaningfully address this emerging crisis, schools need help. The Commonwealth took important steps this year that must be continued, including support for behavioral health technical assistance and consultation and initiatives such as The NAN Project, which offers mental health awareness and suicide prevention programming for young people. In the short term, we must prioritize our students by providing timely, direct access to community-based mental health services.

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Mary A. McGeown

Executive director

Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Lexington