There aren’t many things with which nearly everyone agrees.

I’m willing to bet, though, most will concur with the following: Children learn best in an actual classroom setting.

Late last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement that said precisely that.

The Academy, stressing full understanding of the need to provide a healthy learning environment, said it “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The statement went on to say that the importance of in-person learning “is well-documented and that there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.”

I’m not a child health or education expert, but you don’t have to be one to understand they are right. 

Among the specifics from that report: “Lengthy time away from school and the associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”

The report goes on to address the educational and social impact of school closures, as well as the impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.

No question, for most students, being in school is best. 

But we can’t make it happen at all costs, regardless of what the White House said last week in demanding loosening of CDC guidelines and threatening to cut federal funding for schools that do not open. (The CDC responded on Thursday that it would not be revising its guidelines.) 

Based on Wednesday’s meeting of about 70 Valley educators and school administrators from 17 districts and three technical schools that took place at the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit office, two things are clear.

First, as schools look to open, certain foundational principles must be in place across all of the districts, including wearing of masks, social distancing, and sanitizing.

Second, different school systems will adopt different specific approaches.

Today, The Daily Item continues what will be an ongoing examination of the options available to school boards, administrators, educators, parents and students.

Our report today looks at existing cyber schools in our region, and how they can be part of the solution.

Next Sunday, we’ll take a broader look at what going to school may look like this fall, addressing such issues as transportation, class sizes, school meals, sports and more.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to report on the complex web of what it will take to resume teaching our children as this stubborn pandemic continues to challenge us all, including how working parents may be impacted by staggered schedules.

Shikellamy School District Superintendent Jason Bendle told Daily Item reporter Eric Scicchitano and others on Wednesday that all school pandemic plans will be “fluid documents” that will have to “constantly be updated and changed as we move through the school year.”

He’s right, and I think we all know it.

Whether we can accept it and adjust to it will be another matter. 

One thing is certain. The Daily Item will be working hard to provide a steady flow of the information our communities will need to deal with this altered reality. 

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com

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