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Op/ed: Education Epidemic Behind the Mask

Policies Must Take Into Account COVID-Related Mental and Physical Health Inequities

By Christy Tirrell-Corbin, Carlomagno Panlilio Ph.D. ’15 and J. Bart Klika

Children wearing masks and spaced apart in a classroom

Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Children from communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic need broad support to help keep their educations on track, according to a new essay by a UMD researcher and colleagues.

While it’s assumed returning to school is the answer to many of the difficulties students have faced while studying from home during the pandemic, it’s not that simple, Christy Tirrell-Corbin, executive director of UMD’s Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention, Penn State educational psychology Assistant Professor Carlomagno Panlilio Ph.D. ’15 and J. Bart Klika, chief research officer with Prevent Child Abuse America, write in a new essay in The Hill.

Students from communities hit the hardest by the pandemic will need comprehensive mental health support and more if their educations are to get back on track, they write.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently announced strategies for reopening schools during the ongoing pandemic. Although hand-washing, physical distancing, mask-wearing and in-person schooling are important, these strategies alone will not ensure that children are healthy and learning. We also must consider their COVID-19-related experiences, particularly for children in low-resourced communities where infection and death rates have been higher, vaccination rates lower and inequities rampant. 

In order to tackle such complexities in children’s experiences, we simply cannot rely on teachers and schools to “go it alone.” Instead, we must break out of our silos and harness community-wide resources that will address the needs of the “whole child,” which include physical and mental health — and, for the children’s sake, we must act now.

Read the rest in The Hill.



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