As a new school year begins, many children nationwide will experience their first day of school without a mask requirement or other COVID-related mandates for the first time in more than two years.
At the beginning of the new school year 2021, around 75% of US schools required masks for students or teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Now only a handful of schools require masks.
But for many, the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic lingers. This is especially true in California, where schools have implemented some of the toughest COVID guidelines in the country. The state was also one of the last to reopen its schools.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which begins the new school year Monday, almost reinstated mask mandates and tests over the summer but dropped them due to a major setback.
Several parents speaking to Fox News Digital said they were relieved the mask mandates were dropped but said the impact of the past 2½ years of COVID guidelines is lingering.
“Isolating children, particularly in Los Angeles, socially, academically and emotionally from their peers has had adverse effects that we are only just beginning to feel,” Daniella Bloom, whose children attend school in the Los Angeles area, told Fox News Digital.
“When you isolate kids from a seven-hour school day where there are no sports and no social curriculum activities, they have no choice but to turn to their electronics,” Bloom said. “And there’s only darkness there, as they’re already vulnerable and going through puberty and prone to a lot of groupthink and conformity.”
Bloom said children, who are introverted and perhaps prone to anxiety, used the masks to hide from the world.
The masks, she said, “have made them very comfortable not being exposed to the world.”
Another parent, Kristina Irvin, said their eldest son, who was in middle school when COVID struck, went from a straight-A student to “all Fs.”
“It was two years of wasted time,” Irvin said. “He literally wouldn’t care. And what got me was that the teachers didn’t care. He showed me on the Zoom videos, the teachers were sipping spaghetti… and then another teacher was changing a newborn diaper – just a kid screaming in the background. So it wasn’t conducive to learning.”
Irvin said she was more hopeful for the year ahead, but added, “The fight isn’t over yet.”
Another Los Angeles-area parent told Fox News Digital she’s watched her children fall down a “rabbit hole” of social isolation and depression during the pandemic.
“I was always so scared that I would go into his room and he wouldn’t be with me anymore. He was so depressed. I remember he burst into tears because he was so lonely,” she said.
Another of their children completed their senior year as COVID and began college at Chapman University in Orange County the following school year. But he went into a bout of depression and heavy drug use and didn’t make it through his freshman semester.
Lance Christensen, who is running for superintendent of public education and has five children of his own in the public school, said the “hopelessness and despair” set in as the children realized what they had lost.
“It wasn’t until the kids started having these long bouts of depression and despair that they thought, ‘If I don’t go back to school, if I can’t play baseball, if I can’t go to the homecoming dance, or if I can’t at school play, finish my music to get this scholarship’ – the hopelessness and despair was quite dramatic,” he said.
Christensen told Fox News Digital he’s seen “dozens and dozens of kids” on his own network whose depression and anxiety have skyrocketed.
“I personally know children who have killed themselves. I know other kids who have attempted suicide in very dramatic ways,” he said.
For the coming months and years, Christensen predicted that many districts and counties would continue to push forward with COVID-related measures. He argued that any child who wants to get back to school normally and not be forced to conform to more restrictions “needs to push back really hard.”
The decline in children’s well-being and mental health is reflected in recent studies. According to a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, more than four in ten parents say their children are falling behind in school.
Enrollment in California, meanwhile, has plummeted in part due to the COVID quarantine. LAUSD, for example, says it can’t account for up to 20,000 students missing from its list, according to EdSource.
For now, many children and parents alike seem relieved that masks are no longer required. Another LA-area parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said she hopes schools start doing more to build and create community.
“I think you would find a lot of parents who would be super supportive and would do anything to bring that sense of community back and do more things to get kids to socialize because I think that will help them with their academics as well.” help and… child development,” she said.
She told Fox News Digital that she saw a big difference in her children’s well-being when Los Angeles schools lifted mask requirements in the spring.
“[My son]just said a few weeks ago, ‘I can’t believe I missed that,'” she said.
Irvin, who is running for the California Senate, said she is hopeful for the year ahead but remains cautious. She predicted there would be a significant backlash if schools attempted to reintroduce COVID policies like masking or daily testing.
“I’m telling you now, it won’t work. It won’t work with the parents. It won’t fly,” she said.
Bloom, meanwhile, vowed parents will continue to attend school board meetings and fight the latest assembly laws “which could directly affect our ability to be parents of our own children.”
“The fight is certainly not over yet,” she said. “Someone has to do it, and California parents are certainly at the forefront of that.”
https://nypost.com/2022/08/15/examining-covid-mandate-consequences-as-students-return-to-class/ Investigating the impact of the COVID mandate as students return to class