Topic: Schools Reopen Vs. Remote
As school districts around the nation roll out plans to reopen or go remote, communities want to know how schools can stay safe while delivering the best education possible during the pandemic. Panelists will discuss the public health, education, and mental health aspects of the plans for the 2020 school year.
- Dr. Katelyn Jetelina - Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
- Valerie Crabtree Ph.D - Associate Member, St. Jude Faculty Chief, Psychosocial Services at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
- Pamela Davis-Kean Ph.D - Professor of Psychology, Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research Associate Director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science
When: August 20, 2020. 2PM - 3PM EDT
Where: Newswise Live Zoom Room
This live event will also be recorded and transcribed for use by media and communicators after it is concluded.
Thom: Okay, thank you for joining and welcome to today's News wise live expert panel. Today's topic is schools reopening versus remote. As school districts around the nation are rolling out their plans whether to reopen and go into the classroom again or starting out remote, communities all around the country want to know how schools can stay safe while delivering the best education possible during this pandemic. Our panelists are going to discuss topics such as public health, education and mental health, and other related topics. And of course, we want to take questions from the media. So I'll give some just quick instructions. Please note the chat – in the zoom program, you can chat your questions to me and we'll invite you if you'd like to ask the question yourself and get on audio and/or video if you'd like to do that. If you don't want to do that, for whatever reason, just let me know and I'll be happy to relay the question to the panelists for you. Also for the media, please note that we will have a video recording and a transcript available of today's panel. So if you registered for today's event, you're automatically on the list to get those materials but if you didn't register and you just popped in from an invite that we may have sent out, let us know if you'd like to get that information, send us an email to email@example.com and our team will make sure that you get added to the list to receive the video and the transcript. And you are welcome to use any quotes from today's panel in your writing, as well as to follow up with the communicators at the panelists’ institutions in order to ask any further questions, follow up and additional interviews. I want to introduce our panelists briefly and then we'll get started with questions. So, to spotlight the video here of Dr. Katelyn Jetelina – she's an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the UT Health School of Public Health at the Dallas campus. Thank you for joining us Dr. Jetelina. We also have with us, Valerie Crabtree, PhD. She's Associate Member of the St. Jude faculty and she's also a St. Jude Faculty Chief in the psychosocial services at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Thank you Dr. Crabtree. And last but not least, we have Dr. Pam Davis-Kean, Professor of Psychology and Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research and Associate Director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science. Thank you very much for joining us, Dr. Davis-Kean. First I want to start with – as rules everything during this pandemic, the public health and epidemiology. We can't really talk about education and mental health until we really understand what's going on with the virus. So Dr. Jetelina, as that relates to reopening public schools, what steps should public health officials and school officials be taking at the local and county level to assess whether or not it's safe to send kids back to school and doing that local area by local area?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, like you said, we have public health responses in the United States more targeted towards local counties or states and not necessarily a national response. And so, as county and school health officials, we need to look at test positivity rate, so how many of our COVID tests are coming back positive. And then in combination with that, we need to look at the daily new cases per 100,000 for each county. And by triangulating those two sources, we should have a very good understanding on whether schools should open or not.
Thom: And is there a particular target number that you recommend to shoot for, above or below making that decision?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, so we're shooting for a TPR, test positivity rate below 5%. That is what is recommended by the WHO. A lot of the United States is not very close to that. So, we are also hoping to at least get it below 10% before opening up a school. Daily case rate – we are also hoping for less than one daily case per 100,000 in a community. That is not necessarily possible right now across the United States, so we are shooting for less than 10 cases per 100,000.
Thom: Thank you, Dr. Jetelina. To Dr. Davis-Kean – looking at education, philosophy and pedagogy, has this debate that's dominated the conversation all summer about whether or not schools need to reopen and kids need to be back in that classroom, has that detracted from the ability to plan effectively for doing education remotely and making that the best experience that could possibly be?
Pam Davis-Kean: Yes, when I talked about this earlier in March and April, I thought the summer would be spent getting prepared for potentially having to be online again in the fall. But instead, I think most people try to get the students for really good reasons back in to the school building. And in doing so, we really didn't deal with some of the biggest issues, which were if it's going to be remote, how are we going to make sure the internet is strong in the homes with the parents going back to work? What was going to happen regarding children being able to connect on their own and not having parents in the home? So, now we have this really kind of exactly same situation we had in February and March that hasn't improved a lot as to what we're going to be doing in the fall and potentially into the winter and spring again, if these rates don't get down to the point where we can have both teachers and kids in the schools at the same time.
Thom: To Dr. Crabtree about some of the mental health, impacts of this crisis and with the uncertainty and the unprecedented nature of all this, what would you say are some of the mental health effects of not returning to the classroom? Dr. Davis-Kean alluded to very good reasons why a lot of people might want kids to get back to the classroom, and that's understandable. What are the consequences mental health wise of not going back to school?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: I think for a lot of children, school is a safe place for them. And unfortunately, we have homes that are less physically and psychologically safe for children. When they're not able to go back to school, this has been a really extended period if they are potentially in an unsafe environment, having that continue and not having a teacher or school counselor who is keeping eyes on their kids to recognize signs of abuse or neglect. And that's a real challenge. I think beyond that, for children that are in a safe environment, the isolation of not being with peers, not learning in a peer group, not having the socialization opportunities that are so critical at each developmental stage across pre-K to 12th grade and even into college, they're missing a lot of socialization opportunities that are extremely important for mental health as they move into adulthood.
Thom: Thank you, Dr. Crabtree. I want to open the floor up to questions from our media participants. Please do chat any questions that you have to me and we will gladly call on you to ask the question yourself and/or, if you prefer, I'll relay the question for you. First, we do have a question from someone in our media audience. We have Rob Britt. Let me just find your audio and activate that. Rob, please go ahead and ask your question. Thanks so much.
Robert Roy Britt: Yeah, thank you all for doing this. Dr. Jetelina, you mentioned a couple of statistics that everybody is trying to pay attention to. But educators are telling me that most K to 12 schools don't have the resources to reopen safely even if, you know, unless community transmission is below these levels, and even then I think you would maybe agree that they still should be taking these precautions. So, with that in mind, do you think there are significant areas in the country where transmission is low enough to actually aim for safe classroom reopening? I have two questions. That's the first one.
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, absolutely. I'll answer your first one. Absolutely. There are many counties across the United States that we call in the green area, so they have less than one or less than five cases per 100,000. And we're talking about New York, we're talking about Maine, Vermont; not necessarily the southern states which aren’t a part of, but more of those northeastern states.
Robert Roy Britt: Okay. And my second question is related to the actual statistics and how educators and parents can even begin to understand them. We talk about safe level of transmission and we talk about TPR and DCR and it gets a little bit technical, but also, correct me if I'm wrong, but the percentage of positive tests is going to depend on whose being tested. So, what would you advise parents and the decision makers at schools to sort through the data that might be available to them or might not?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, I think it's a really good point. You know, real time data is extremely messy. And we are dealing with that right now. The best we can do is use what we have. And you're right, TPR is completely dependent on the county level, on the state level in which they are implementing community wide testing. And the only way we're going to get that TPR down to a comfortable level is if we increase as much testing as we can get. And so we have a good handle on who is positive and then who needs to quarantine.
Thom: Thank you for your questions there, Rob. I'd like to ask to Dr. Davis-Kean if schools have not already, and they are trying to reopen in person rather than go remote, what should they be planning for in the eventual need that they do go remote?
Pam Davis-Kean: Yeah, I think most schools are going to have to assume that at some point they're going remote this year because we just have the virus kind of going up and down in all the states. So Michigan, the state I'm in, is generally pretty good but we have some spots that are pretty high and some spots that are lower. One of the things that we can't do as much out here in Michigan is have outside related schooling; the southern states can do a little bit longer than we can. But I think taking the really large spaces that are available in the schools in order to both distance and be outside, would be something to think about. When they come back and if you do have to go remote, one of the issues is this issue of logging in for the kids – a lot of the really young kids have to switch three or four different software platforms in order to do all of the, and even more all of the schooling they have to do. Some of them, it's really confusing for the parents. And so for kids, it's even more problematic. So, maybe spend some of the time if you're face to face now, assessing the kids’ abilities to be able to do that. We also have a real issue of what has happened since kids have been out of schooling since February and March. And so we know we're going to have achievement gap problems and so getting some assessments, and now to find out where the kids are at and where they need to be and the kind of education plans that are needed, would be a really important thing to do especially if you have these kids face to face right now on the idea that if they go remote, you can still provide those education programs remotely and try to keep the kids at some level of moving forward on their education and learning trajectories.
Thom: Dr. Crabtree, for schools who are attempting to go back in person, should they expect an uptick in behavior issues as a result of the stress and trauma of this pandemic?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: I think that's a little bit of a challenging question to answer. I think one of the things that’s really difficult when schools are in session in person, is that the classroom does not look like the classroom did this time last year. So, children are not close to each other because we have to maintain physical distancing. I think in some ways that may cut down on some of the physical altercations that happen and when children may inappropriately interpret a neutral action like someone bumping into you is something that was aggressive and response, I think we'll probably have fewer of those types of incidents and are more likely to have children who are out of the routine of following a classroom routine, following classroom directives. So, what I would anticipate maybe more non-compliance. It's also a lot more pressure on kids to follow all of these rules – to keep their masks on all day long, to not touch people, to play differently, to behave differently in the classroom. We're expecting a lot, particularly in the younger age groups that may induce some behavior difficulties, just from having expectations that may be really difficult for them to meet needs.
Thom: What kind of students’ issues and maybe some special needs would you predict could result in some of those issues of attentiveness and compliance with the curriculum rather than maybe necessarily worrying about interpersonal conflict between students? It sounds like you're saying that might not be as much of an issue, but maybe something that deals with children who have attention problems or other sort of socio and emotional problems?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: Yes, I mean, I think when we think about children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, some of those children have attention difficulties and that is going to be difficult in a classroom where the teacher can't necessarily be standing as close to them as they might otherwise. For remote learners, children with attention problems can really have difficulty maintaining attention over an extended period on the computer, and then certainly those children that have hyperactivity and impulsivity – when we're asking them sit in this spot, don't scoot over because you're too close to your peer, keep your mask on, keep your hands to yourself, wash your hands – it's a lot of additional demands when typical classroom environments can be really challenging for children with hyperactivity and impulsivity to begin with. And then we're adding these additional pieces and I think it really can be pretty difficult for them to manage their behavior and learn, all at the same time.
Thom: Dr. Jetelina, for these schools that are attempting to reopen, what kind of additional manpower and resources are truly needed to reopen and keep them safe under the guidelines that are necessary for all of this?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, so like Dr. Davis-Kean alluded to, there is a lot of measures we can do physically in the schools. A lot of schools are opening with cohorts. So maybe only select few come on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then the rest come on Wednesdays and Thursdays – I'm not going into the hallways, I'm eating lunch in the classroom; going outside, if you can, if it's not freezing in Michigan. And wearing masks, honestly, if they're old enough to understand, to show them how to wear a mask and also lead by example through the teachers of wearing masks, at least with three layers of protection. You know I've seen a lot of very smart schools, also teamed up with their county health departments and actually create their own dashboards of cases at the school. Contact tracing at the school, it's been quite impressive – the teamwork that some school districts have gone into to make sure that this is a manageable situation.
Thom: You mentioned the incidence of potential cases, and that was my next question for you that what should a school's response be if any cases emerges? Is there some threshold where they may feel that a limited number is somehow manageable with having to shut down or is some kind of a temporary shutdown while they figure out how many more cases there might be appropriate? Or what would be the correct approach in your opinion, when and if cases emerge?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: That's a good question. So, all you need is one case for an outbreak. What I would lean on more of the conservative side that if one case comes out, and as long as you don't have hallways open, it should be pretty manageable to have those kids stay home for a week or two to some.
Thom: The kids just from maybe that same classroom as the infected student?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: Yeah, same classroom or same sports team or wherever that kid was in contact with. I would shut it down real quick – same day; get everyone tested, and it’s self-quarantine. You know, if you're a school that's opening up in an area that has high community spread, we're going to expect that some kids have COVID. The thing is we just want to make sure that the COVID rate at the school is not increasing compared to the COVID rate in the community, so that these schools aren't becoming hotspots. And so we want to keep that under control.
Thom: So there's some level to which a case in a school – a student coming down with COVID is an indicator of that community spread, but not necessarily that the school itself is adding additional spreading to those numbers. Is that something that you can pinpoint to within that data that you are referring to, of the cases per 100,000, for example, or per test?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: So, it really depends on the situation at the school. So, if a school is at full capacity, that one case if they're all sitting in the same classroom, same distance, not wearing masks, for example, if that case is going to spread a lot quicker within a school than within that community where hopefully people are social distancing and wearing masks. And so it really is a case dependent situation, but something to track very carefully if you're a school.
Thom: Thank you, Dr. Jetelina. For Dr. Davis-Kean – you mentioned earlier the importance of assessment during this period with the emergency move to remote education in the spring, students all across the board have undoubtedly had some slide in their proficiency probably by a number of measures. Tell us more about why that assessment that teachers will need to do is so important and what maybe unpleasant realities should parents sort of prepare themselves for? I know no parent likes to hear when a child is maybe behind grade level on something, for example, this is probably going to happen in more families than not at this point. What should people be aware of?
Pam Davis-Kean: Yeah, so we had some data coming from the NWEA, which runs the map test, where they were predicting forward into the fall. This was on the assumption that kids were at the time in April, we're going to be able to go back in the fall, and we were already seeing these. We always see summer reductions and achievement, but we were seeing quite a lot larger reductions because the students were not getting the normative kind of education they get in the schooling. So we're predicting especially with math, a rather large dip in achievement. Reading was going down, but not quite as much. So we already were going into the fall knowing we were going to have what they'd been calling the COVID slide in achievement scores, and so that was already going to have to be dealt with, which meant the kids were going to have to be assessed. We're going to have to figure out what they were missing from three months of schooling and what needed to be done. Now we have a situation where we have some schools going remote, some schools going in person, and some schools doing both a hybrid, and parents who are in an online, only one are forming learning pods and so kind of separating kids out in hopes that they can bring up the achievement that I think almost all parents are worried went down and of which we have some numbers to suggest that's true. So, parents are worried about that. They're hiring teachers. They're rotating around parents on who's helping out with the schooling. A lot of people are getting tutors. I think the biggest thing we're going to see, one of the things that the institution of schooling does do – we have achievement gaps, it doesn't actually reduce the achievement gaps. It kind of holds them steady, but it does hold them steady and I think unfortunately what we're going to start seeing is real dips that we haven't seen before in groups of kids that have always been on the edge of lower achievement. And we're even going to see some of the kids at the high end but I think what we're going to see is this kind of massive fanning that we worry about, where parents who had resources, their kids are doing well, and maybe very well, because they're potentially getting more individualized attention than they normally get. And kids at the bottom doing poorly and more poorly than we generally see them do. So this is the biggest concern and for the entire year now, since we don't really know what's going to happen, it's going to be a concern. We have grades that are like kindergarten first, second, third. I'm not sure those labels of proficiency are going to mean anything in the next year because we don't really know that kids made it to proficiency of any grade that they were in by the end of the school year, and now they're starting pretty unclear what proficiency levels they're at. So, we really need to figure out where they are and identify education plan specifically for what these kids need because we don't really know what's kind of gotten lost and picked up over the summer and what's going to happen in the fall. So, we're going to have a lot of unevenness, a lot of inequalities between the kids that are taking the schooling right now.
Thom: Dr. Crabtree, for students who are going back to the classroom and the potential of some cases coming into the school and spreading in the school, as Dr. Jetelina referred to that schools need to be looking out for, the very real possibility exists that a student may transmit the coronavirus to another student or to a teacher or staff member and that person may be at risk of death. What kind of trauma and experience long term would that be for a student to knowingly have contributed to the spread of a deadly disease? What's that look like for a child?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: No, I think for younger children probably cognitively and developmentally, they may not recognize their role in the transmission. For older children and those who are more cognitively complex who can see, you know, I walked in with COVID and then my teacher got it and then now my teacher is in the ICU or my teacher died. I think there's a real risk for misplaced guilt, because certainly we don't anticipate that any child is going to walk into a school and purposefully transmit COVID to someone else. And I think that it is a concern. And I think for parents, it's really important to be able to talk with children in developmentally appropriate ways about why we're doing all these things, what's important about minimizing transmission and minimizing risk, to hopefully prevent that type of situation. But it unfortunately is a possibility.
Thom: Question from Jessica from Charlottesville – how should parents and other members of the household take precautions from potential exposure? I think for Dr. Jetelina, this would be a good question. With kids may be of varying ages going back to the school and the possibility of them bringing the coronavirus back into their household, should we be doing some kind of distancing within our own families with school-aged children?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: That's a good question. I mean sometimes that's not possible, you know, moms and dads cook for their kids, so they can't social distance. I think what I would do as a mom and I am a mom, is that you Clorox their door handles, you double-check their symptoms, you keep a close eye on those school alerts that are coming in. You, again like Dr. Crabtree said, you can educate the kids and educate their family on how to reduce harm or reduce risk for COVID among the family as well, and so we're just going to be doing the best we can do. You know, it's also really important – I know you mentioned death before, but death among kids is very, very rare. And not only that, we're seeing new evidence come out that the transmission from kids to kids and kids to adults is not as high as from adults to kids. And so keeping those expectations at a normal anxiety rate instead of is also a very important perspective as well.
Thom: Absolutely. Thank you. To Dr. Crabtree, assuming that students will be going back to school eventually if they're starting remote for this year, what kind of concerns especially mental health ones should we be aware of for when it is time to return, that transition back, and maybe a year from when schools closed down under an emergency in March? What kind of complications could come up in that situation?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: Yeah, I think, and I've been talking with parents in my personal life and parents of the children and adolescents that I see clinically. I think particularly for children that have a little bit of anxiety or some social anxiety, the longer they are away from the classroom setting, the longer they are away from peers, the more difficult it likely will be to maintain transition back into the classroom. And I think as we start to get more information about who will be going in person and when and what that will look like, it will be important for parents to be aware of and alert to potential signs of anxiety in their kids so that they can help them anticipate and problem-solve and learn some strategies for managing that anxiety rather than just throwing them in blind and potentially leading to what we can sometimes see, which is school refusal in kids that have a great deal of anxiety with being in the classroom. So I think being alert to that and trying to help come up with a good coping plan is really important.
Thom: Thank you. Dr. Davis-Kean, help us bridge a little bit of what Dr. Crabtree was just saying about these socio emotional issues. How can educators play the right part in all of that, and what's your experience with educating educators on how to take these factors into, you know, into their calculations?
Pam Davis-Kean: So, the school environment provides two things. It provides learning environment but it's also this supportive environment. I'm a developmental psychologist, so you have this expectation as kids are going into the institution of schooling, that they're also learning how to regulate their behavior. It's one of the major things that schooling provides is the ability to stay still, to attend, to know when to get up, when to ask questions. And so kids now are in the home environment where the roles are different. And it's always going to be a transition when you have to go into this more ordered and more kind of rule-oriented environment of the schools. And I think one of the things I've seen teachers talk about doing is to be in constant contact with their kids, is to also provide opportunities of regulation for kids to learn how to regulate. Unfortunately, most of that regulation comes with peer interactions. That's when you're providing that information of don't take so and so’s things, be kind, don't call people names – those are always things that are learned through these kinds of behavioral interactions that are going on. It would be nice if the kids were able to come into the schools outside and to actually interact in some way and even in some games, in order to actually see each other. But also have these opportunities for teachers to be able to provide these kinds of regulation opportunities. Parents are certainly trying to regulate in the home; it's probably the biggest problem I've heard for the parents is how kids won't listen to them. Parents have a very different role in the home than providing schooling and structure for education, and so they're coming into conflict a lot over doing schooling related activities. And so it would be nice if there was a way, and some of this can be done from the teachers remotely, some of it can be done by opening up the schools and some ways of which you can have these interactions. But I do think it's going to be somewhat of a clash when the kids do come back into the school environment, if they're in the remote environment, of probably a delay and some more information needed for regulating them in ways that we expect them to be regulated in the schools. It's going to take some time.
Thom: It sounds that there will need to be a certain transition period coming back, but it certainly can't be a day zero, everyone in the pool. Right?
Pam Davis-Kean: Exactly, exactly.
Thom: How would you also recommend accomplishing any of those sorts of connections between educator and student in the remote environment?
Pam Davis-Kean: So, I think the teachers could plan like I would say what we have to do in the university environment – plan one on one, conversations with the kids, checking in on them. You can do kind of behavioral screeners online and I mean this more informally than formally, of just finding out where they are like. You can certainly tell if the kids are disengaging from whatever you're teaching at the moment – if they're like moving away from the screen, if they're not attending to what's going on, if they seem to be playing other games and activities, and you can try to pull them back on. But I think having one on ones with the teachers in the classroom on a weekly basis with the kids so that the teachers can assess where things are, talking to the parents and asking where the problems are, to see if there's anything that they can do. It's for little kids, the attention span is really small, and so it's going to be a lot to keep them attending to a screen. I actually thought we're really going through this very ironic time when we have people usually telling kids not to be on the screen and now we're telling them to be on the screen all of the time. So this is a real hard thing to manage and kids are just not going to want to do that. They want to go play with their dog, they want to go do something else, they want to go see what their sibling is doing. So I think that the teacher is talking to the kids about how to manage their time, and then hopefully provide some other activities that they can do. I think that's the best we can do during this time.
Thom: Dr. Jetelina, how has inconsistent communication from public health officials affected the ability of schools to reopen and what would you advise them to do better moving forward?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: So, if I want to learn one thing through this pandemic, is that there's a massive disconnect between science and the community. You know, not going through media, not going, you know – Dr. Fauci is sitting next to President Trump, but really a direct line of communication from science. And it's a big disconnect. There's a lot of confusion, a lot of anxiety because of it. We are getting scientific data on a daily basis. It's even confusing for me sometimes. And so, what we need to do as a scientific community is learn how to translate that back to the community and then also teach community members how to be more scientific literate so they can take these results in and apply them to their daily lives.
Thom: Thank you, Dr. Jetelina. To Dr. Crabtree, as educators and their parents are monitoring their children getting into school either remotely or back in person, what are some of the warning signs mental health wise that parents and teachers ought to be aware of, or possibly even some to proactively address that we recognize there will be potential conflict?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: I think one of the things that's really important to keep in mind is what children's basic needs are. And there are these achievement gaps that Davis-Kean has talked about. Certainly it's important for them to make academic gains. At the same time I think most people are living in a state of anxiety. They're either angry or worried or scared or frustrated, or some combination of all of those things, a good amount of the time, and children pick up on that. So whether it's picking up on it from your parents, from your teachers, so I think we need to be thoughtful about what our kids really need, which is safety, security and health to begin with. They need a secure and loving environment, and that means from their parents, from their teachers, and parents and teachers to be able to regulate themselves to be able to provide that. So, I think that teachers are in a really different situation now than they've ever been in before. And I think about the ones who are teaching in the classroom, who are truly putting their health at risk, they may be teaching in the classroom and teaching remote students simultaneously, which is very difficult and kind of impossible for one person to do. Or for those who are teaching remotely, they're having to learn an entirely new way of teaching – how to assess these children remotely and meet their needs when they're not in a group together physically. And all of those things are really draining and they're draining on the parents who are also trying to provide support to their children in those settings. So, I think parents and teachers all need to be mindful of their own mental health, their own way of coping and managing the difficult emotions and experiences so that they can be in the best place to help these children. At the same time, I think parents and teachers should be paying attention to kids who seem sad, who seem withdrawn, who are irritable or angry. And I think, especially in teenagers, irritability, and anger can be a sign of depression, and I think teachers and parents really need to be alert to that. And kids seeming just utterly disinterested, not the normal, I'm distracted by my dog or my baby sister in the room with me, but just kind of checked out, not putting forth the effort that they typically have – any of those signs or indications to us that they really may need some help from a qualified mental health professional. And one of the positive things about COVID is that most mental health professionals are providing help via telehealth, which makes it very accessible and somewhat easier to access than it has been in the past. So, I would encourage parents and teachers to be thoughtful about those signs and symptoms.
Thom: Dr. Davis-Kean, the technology and navigating all the different layers of that is surely going to consume a lot of energy by parents, students and teachers this year. How much is that do you think a hindrance to making remote education more effective and what do you think can be done about it?
Pam Davis-Kean: Yeah, I think we were expecting I believe that we were going to be going face to face for the fall, and so a lot of work that could have been done to make remote learning challenging are different than it had been in the springtime, probably wasn't laid out as well as it could be. I think one of the things that we have to do, including for all of the issues that Dr. Crabtree was talking about with mental health anxiety, we have a lot of stuff going on. And we're hoping that kids will learn in whatever environment, and we are throwing quite a few of different ones at them and it's going to probably change across the school year. And I think in the end, we're going to have to deal with the issues related to achievement sometime next year. So, we're basically going to be keeping people's head above water. We're going to try to keep everyone as sane as possible during this time, but I think making great strides and achievement is probably not going to be our primary goal the way it is every other year. And so in 2021 or whenever we're able to get back face to face, there is going to have to be a lot of thought going into what schooling is going to look like in that year, because we really can't deal with some of this stuff, we just don't have the resources to do so. Across the board, the schools don't really have all the resources they need. Not only do they not have PPE, they really don't have all of the resources they need for doing the remote learning as well. And so I think it's just going to have to be something that we now hopefully lay out very clearly, of the steps that need to be taken, not just go back to the way things were because we have a lot we're going to have to deal with when kids are coming into an environment that some of them now will have been out of for more than a year, and figure out what's going to go on. I was thinking about the kindergarten children – it's a big transition for them to go from the home into the school. And right now that year is just very strange. There is no transition and kind of walking in the school year; those going into high school for the first time, also a transition year very different than what they would normally be transitioning into. So the technology right now I think it is what we have, it is what it is, it's not necessarily going to improve across the next year. I think what we're going to have to do is do the best we can. And then next year, we're really going to have to have a plan and it's going to have to be a serious plan of how we're going to deal with both the mental health and socio and emotional issues, behavioral issues and achievement issues on top of all of those.
Thom: For students is it, are we in this state that the border between home life and schooling and education is becoming more and more fluid as it is with adults and our work life being working from home, so many of us during this pandemic? Is that potentially a good thing for children to be able to adapt to something that to me seems like more of the modern world as they – obviously not for a kindergartener but teenagers are essentially getting a crash course in becoming an employee who works remotely?
Pam Davis-Kean: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting because most of us even though we could work remote than we are now, that’s not the normal way we work. So, remote working is not the average of what we do. We mostly go in because also work is a place where we meet other people, we interact with our peers, we also learn what’s okay to say and not say, so all these other institutions are good places for regulation. So, it is good for us to interact with each other in some way and not just little boxes on the screen. So, I think there are real positives for doing that. I do think thinking about the positive opportunities that are coming up is that there are ways that we can do learning or teaching especially for those in the past like if you miss school and you had absenteeism, you were physically demanded to be in there. If we are actually trying to record classes, that opens up a lot of opportunities for kids not to have big missing periods because they are sick. They can just look at their class, if they missed, online. So that’s opening up some real possibilities that we didn’t have before where everything had to be inside a building, where you had to be in a classroom. So I am hoping that we now expand on that and have teachers recording their teaching so that we have it available to kids who may not, for any reason, not be able to be in the classroom. So, I think there are some positives toward that. I don’t think at fifth grade and fourth grade we are getting them prepared for a life of working at home. They still do need a certain learning environment in order – we see this all the time, it’s assessed constantly at the university level. Do kids do better because we do have a lot of online learning at the university level or when they are sitting in the classroom, in our lecture halls? And it ends up being they retain more when it’s a face to face experience than it is from remote, even though they can go back and look at stuff. They just attend more if there is somebody in the front of the classroom delivering the information and we know that that’s true, especially for the primary and secondary schools as well. Right. Especially in high school, you start hearing kids talk about how certain teachers are the reason why they are moving forward in some of the activities they are doing. So we still want to go back to that – being able to take some of the lessons learnt from this period and take the good things forward, I think will be a huge positive for all of us.
Thom: Dr. Jetelina, how important is testing and which kind of testing in squashing a potential outbreak in a school as soon as possible?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: PCR right now is the ideal testing route. There are some of the really innovative solutions also coming out recently. We are using saliva but I haven’t seen the effectiveness in studies yet but they are coming. And so you certainly want a high reliable PCR test which then you can retest a week or two later after your symptoms go away, just to make sure you are clear to go back to school.
Thom: What, if any, lessons do you feel of value have come out of this pandemic that you hope that people maybe change their awareness a little bit about public health?
Dr. Katelyn Jetelina: I was just going to say now people know what an epidemiologist is. No, but seriously, you know, I think successful public health is when nothing happens and a lot of people don’t realize that. It’s seat-belt, it’s reduce smoking, it’s a lot of things happen in the background and that means we are doing our job, and with that though means that people aren’t really aware of what we do. And so I hope that going forward people know that public health is the backbone of a healthy economy, mental health status, quality of health and that we need to continue funding those efforts and supporting those supports, so something like this – when other pandemic comes, that we are prepared and that we have learned our lessons and we can appropriately react next time.
Thom: Dr. Crabtree, as this unprecedented period continues and we don’t know when it will end but it will eventually, what opportunities do you see for some lessons learnt and some possible transformation of education in mental health potentially for better could we come out of this?
Dr. Valerie Crabtree: I think Dr. Davis-Kean was touching on this that we are learning new ways of learning and learning new ways of teaching and I think one of the challenges in K-12 education is some of the rigid structure and some of that is necessary in helping kids to regulate themselves. Some of that is kind of stifled thing and so if we can find ways to creatively meet kids’ needs, I think that’s really important and we are being forced to do that. At the secondary levels of making middle and high school, I have been an advocate for many years for healthy school start times and there is a lot of evidence that schools starting earlier than 8:30 in the morning can be really detrimental to adolescence mental and physical health as well as academic performance. And the reason for that is that with puberty comes a later circadian rhythm or sleep-wake time, and when those adolescents need to wake up excessively early to go to school, they don’t get sufficient sleep and overtime that leads to sleep death that really takes a toll on brains and bodies. And I think now that we are using all these remote and virtual learning platforms and changing absolutely everything else and putting our bus schedules or after-school sports, I think it is real opportune time to look at – we have all this evidence that it’s healthier for teenagers to start school later in the morning, how can we actually implement that now we’ve turned on higher educational system upside down? When we start to put it back together again, can we do it right rather than relying on just these old traditions that have been in place for a long time?
Thom: Thank you to Dr. Davis-Kean, Dr. Jetelina and Dr. Crabtree and to the communicators at each of their institutions for helping us to co-ordinate today’s panel and thank you to all the media who have attended. If you have any further questions, please feel to free to contact me anytime and we will follow up with you all with the video and the transcript as soon as that’s available. Thank you very much and have a great rest of your day. Stay safe, stay healthy and good luck.