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Pediatrician says children are at risk if schools stay closed

Dr. Debbie Greenhouse says students need to return to in-person learning for their mental health and education.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Wednesday, the Reopen SC Children’s Services Committee met to discuss issues school districts are facing when preparing for the fall.

“Lengthy time away from school often results in social isolation. every single pediatrician can relate stories now of children with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts related to social isolation”

Dr. Debbie Greenhouse with the Palmetto Pediatric and Adolescence Clinic says children need to return to face to face instruction in the fall and they can do it in a safe way.

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“The current plans being introduced or suggested in some of our school districts, which rely heavily on distance learning and offer only very limited in-person instruction, will result in dramatic widening in that socio-economic gap in education among children in South Carolina.”

While Dr. Greenhouse thinks children should return to school right away, Superintendent Molly Spearman says the Department of Education recommends school districts make their decisions based on the rate of spread of the coronavirus in their county.

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Another issue is that thousands of students have been unreachable since schools closed in March due to the coronavirus.  

Senator Shealy says, “you’ve got two groups of children. You’ve got groups of children that...nothing. They’re off the grid and then you’ve got a group of children where we’ve seen them. We’ve laid eyes on them in the last eight days or had contact with a parent, but they’ve had no educational instruction.”

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Spearman says school districts are working with the Department of Social Services to try to locate these students.

“Without a doubt, our students are going to do need a lot of support.” Spearman says, “we’re going to need a lot of social worker help. a lot of counseling help for these families and students.”

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Kids could be missing because they don’t have broadband coverage, they might be homeless, or they could have moved without schools knowing.

Senator Malloy says, “Students need face to face contact with a teacher. What I don’t is to punt and say we’re going 100% virtual and end up losing kids.”

While the committee debated over face to face instruction versus virtual learning, they noted parents will get to choose what’s best for their children in the fall.

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