Swetha Ganesan, an Orange County resident and graduate student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Photo courtesy of Ganesan.
The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Swetha Ganesan is an Orange County resident and graduate student pursuing a master of public health degree in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
As we approach our nine-month anniversary of quarantine due to COVID-19, North Carolina is searching for ways to safely bring back a sense of normalcy — or at least as close to normalcy as we can get during a pandemic — and one avenue that is being actively explored is the safe reopening of public elementary schools.
Safely sending students, especially our young ones in elementary school, back to school in the era of COVID-19 is a public health dilemma. Experts have found that in-person interactions play vital roles in the social, behavioral and emotional development of young children.
Young elementary school kids are usually not yet academically self-sufficient, and online-based schooling often results in low academic motivation and screen fatigue, which can lead to educational deficits and poorer mental health outcomes for students. In Orange County, we want to set our students up for success, and that starts with shifting away from online elementary school education and towards hybrid/in-person schooling.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced that elementary schools can begin to reopen in-person instruction at the discretion of county leaders, and the Orange County Board of Education has begun developing a Plan B for opening elementary schools by January 2021.