Back to School PA PAC, an influential local parents’ rights group, has joined a national effort challenging the Biden administration to commit to keeping classrooms open in the fall, even if COVID-19 cases continue. It’s an attempt to force the Centers for Disease Control and other public health professionals to acknowledge the research showing the impact of closed classrooms was more damaging to children than the coronavirus.
The open letter was penned by a coalition of scientists, doctors and mental health professionals under the auspices of Urgency of Normal, a group that is concerned that COVID-19 mitigation measures are hurting rather than helping children.
The letter emphasizes that CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines for children do more harm than good and continue to cause significant disruption to children’s education and to working parents while providing no demonstrable public health benefit in limiting the spread.
“Currently, nearly all U.S. adults and children are protected by either vaccination or infection-acquired immunity, and the U.S. is seeing far lower hospitalization and mortality rates than in prior surges. CDC policies have serious unintended consequences–-such as school closures, increased school absences, forcing parents to miss work, and the expense and time of testing,” the group said in a press release.
“Our nation’s children suffered tremendous learning loss as a result of prolonged school closures and are battling a well-documented mental health crisis, and ongoing COVID-19 testing and isolation periods are causing additional harm,” the letter said.
Back to School PA supported school board candidates across the state in 2021 who believed schools should remain open. They endorsed more than 200 candidates and nearly 60 percent won their races. And their predecessor organization, Keeping Kids in School PAC, had a 98 percent success rate in the 2021 primary for the candidates it endorsed.
“It’s a nonpartisan group of physicians and parent groups that are advocating to get back to normal for kids,” said Beth Ann Rosica, Back to School executive director. “A lot of these mandates that have been happening all over the country…So they put together a toolkit back in (the winter) to help schools and people who work with kids to put policies in place that would allow kids to experience a more normal childhood. And Back to School PA pushed that out to our parent groups. And I personally went to my own school board, trying to advocate for more normal policies for our kids.”
The letter asks the CDC and the White House to “enact policies that are more reasonable because, even though here in Pennsylvania most schools are unmasked, there are still issues impending,” said Rosica.
“Because we know that cases are going to go up again in the fall and many of the schools have policies that allow for masking up again at certain levels of transmission,” Rosica said.”
And certain school districts were requiring vaccinations for activities like participating in sports, she said.
The letter is “very much of our beliefs and philosophy,” said Rosica. “That parents should be making these decisions and not school districts or even necessarily public health officials. We think it’s a good message.”
“And it’s not political, even though some will say it is,” said Rosica. “These are liberal doctors, conservative doctors, all different kinds of community groups.”
“We have written this letter because the lives of children and their families continue to be disrupted by unnecessary COVID-19 testing, isolation, and vaccine requirements. With high levels of both vaccination and infection-acquired immunity, it is time to lift the COVID-19 mitigation measures that are preventing our children from unconditionally participating in school, camps, and sports,” said co-author Dr. Eliza Holland, a pediatric hospitalist in Charlottesville, Va.