Editor’s note: The following letter comes from the sister of former Carrabelle Mayor Mel Kelly, who taught in primary education, both public and private, in the Chicago area and in Kansas City, for her entire 37-year career as a much respected teacher. Kelly asked for her highly experienced sister’s opinion on the potential impact the COVID-19 virus could have on young children, and these were her thoughts.
I think this is devastating to children, especially the young ones, who have just started school like the pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade. School is their life. Some come from daycare in the morning and some in the afternoon . Some receive both breakfast and lunch at school, and that has been taken away from them. Yes, some districts are trying to feed their kids, but if meals are being delivered by pickup truck or school bus, for example, how can young children access them safely?
Some parents, who may have only one computer at home and who are trying to manage their own workload, then trying to do school work with their kids throughout the day – imagine four children plus a parent and one computer – if indeed there is a computer, and if there is internet service for them all to use? And parents who are not comfortable or even slightly skilled with teaching are put into the complex setting of trying to teach their own one, two or many children at various ages with multiple needs. Parents who pay taxes to support the public school systems did not ask for this, nor did the children.
School districts were not adequately prepared to send lessons over the internet at specific times for specific grade levels. Teachers at all levels scrambled to revise lesson plans into long-distance learning programs. Those less familiar with technology struggled to work within the parameters they were given.
The shutdowns did not take all kids into account. There were no goodbyes to teachers, supplies were all left at school. The fear of the unknown is one of the greatest fears in young children and the sudden closings were enough to badly upset children. Think about those children with special needs who are left with no support and no educational frameworks.
I can imagine the tensions in a household; the fights to do homework, the schedule changes that make no allowance for recess, music, art, physical education and simple interaction with others. There is no active time spent with friends, no playing in the backyard or parks and playgrounds. Children are left to feel isolated and frightened at the confusing circumstances into which they have been thrust.
Children feel the stresses of their parents, as well as their own Some parents have been able to adapt to the circumstances thrust upon them, but others may have lost jobs and salaries, and have no monies to simply feed their families. (In a recent poll, more than 25 percent of breadwinners admitted they could not pay an unexpected bill of $250)
Calls to hot lines have increased 800 percent since schools and businesses and jobs shut down. We have only to see what the ramifications will be when towns shut down community pools, sports leagues, day camps and overnight camps that helped protect and educate children. If parents are finally able to return to work, who will watch their children? If monies are short, parents will be unable to pay babysitters, or even temporary unlicensed day care facilities; without grandparents or extended family. Who will watch over and attempt to teach children then?
Are suicides and long-term psychological problems going to be greater among teens and adults because they cannot cope and have no outlets to share their frustrations? Sure, it was great adults thought they were doing the best job they could protecting everyone from the virus, but are they actually killing society, and damaging today’s children, tomorrow’s adults? What memorable effects will they live with for the rest of their lives? My own children will never forget the trauma of Sept. 11. Today’s kids will never forget this social distancing we thrust upon them and upon ourselves as well.
I have been so upset no one thought of the kids in all the suddenness of these shutdowns. No one thought about the effects on them. For many years, as a primary teacher I have thought as a child, knowing how they thought and saw the world, how they reacted to things at home and in the world around them. They didn’t deserve any of this, and yet it is now governing their lives and those of their families and friends.
But then, in all reality, none of us deserved this upheaval in our worlds, in our health, our economy and our very lives. What will it mean for us if and when we come out on the other side?
Kansas City, Kansas