Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement to keep schools closed in San Diego County came as a shock to many teachers, parents, and students alike. Despite statistics showing that those under the age of 18 have an extremely low risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19, Newsom went through with the rash decision, causing many—including San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond—to speak out.
In a recent COVID-19 update, Desmond emphasized how important it is to keep schools open during these difficult, changing times. “We are denying our children mental, social, and physical outlets by closing our schools during arguably the most critical time in their life,” argued Desmond. “The closures of our schools will have damaging effects on the future.”
He’s exactly right in noting that schools matter beyond the education they provide. Schools are an integral support system for low-income families across San Diego. Lunch programs provided by schools are sometimes vital to the health of students who wouldn’t be able to have a full meal at home, and classes provide a place for students to stay while their parents work long days.
An especially important and often neglected facet of schools is how they prioritize and protect the health of students, and connect them with their peers. Teachers are usually the first to notice and report signs of child abuse, gang activity, and severe mental health disorders, and are always ready to help students in need.
Speaking of mental health, school closures can be a disaster for an already depressed generation. Teenagers especially need to talk with other people in the same chapter of life to alleviate stress, work through problems, and form meaningful connections. While schools can’t solve every student’s mental health issues, they do allow them to form friendships that can help them feel less alone.
Supervisor Jim Desmond hopes for the safe and gradual reopening of schools, rather than this blanket decision to close them indefinitely. It’s clear that many teachers, parents, and students are with Desmond in that hope, but Newsom appears intent on ignoring their needs.