COD

School a safe space

for many students

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Two excellent essays appeared in Opinions recently — “Turning a blind eye” by Associate Opinions Editor Chris Gentilviso and “Next school year will be the big challenge” by correspondent Robert N. Holt. As a former elementary school counselor, I would like to add something that has not been addressed: the ongoing shutdown of the schools that blatantly discriminates against students who are disadvantaged in many ways that policymakers are ignoring. Perhaps they are so disconnected from reality that they aren’t even aware of these factors, which is even worse.

This is not about minorities or even those living in poverty, many of whom have loving, supportive families who encourage academic success every step of the way. This is about students from all socioeconomic, racial and cultural backgrounds who live in dysfunctional or abusive situations; whose parents work several jobs and have no time for home schooling; who have no access to the internet or other assistive technology; who have unaddressed mental health issues; who are suffering with addictions, depression, isolation from caring adults; or whose simple lack of motivation usually is recognized and resolved in the school setting. It always broke my heart to see bright children who were successful in the classroom but had low grade-point averages due to the zeros averaged in for not doing homework. Sometimes they were going home to take care of younger siblings as their parents worked; engaged in criminal behavior; or were lying around in stupors from various substances. Sadly but truly, the only safe, encouraging place for many students is in a brick-and-mortar school.

Yes, next year will be the big challenge. If our elected leaders care at all about leveling the playing field, then they should prioritize opening the schools as soon as possible.

Cecilia Thomas.

Mechanicsville.

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