STEP UP Schools, Inc.
Schools play a critical role in the well being of communities.
Schools are a fundamental part of the infrastructure of communities. Schools provide safe and supportive environments, structure, and routines for children, as well as other needed support services to children and families. Schools play a vital role in the economic health of communities by employing teachers and other staff and helping parents, guardians, and caregivers work.
Schools provide critical instruction and academic support that benefit students and communities in both the short- and long-term. The main role and priorities of K-12 educational institutions are to provide age-appropriate instruction and support students' academic development. Reopening schools will provide in-person instruction for students, facilitate increased communication between teachers and students, and provide students with critical academic services, including school-based tutoring, special education, and other specialized learning supports.
Studies show that students have experienced learning loss during the period of school closure and summer months.  In-person instruction for students has advantages over virtual learning, particularly when virtual learning was not the planned format for instruction, and schools may not have the resources or capability to transition fully to virtual learning. In-person classroom instruction has the added benefit for many students of interpersonal interaction between the student and the teacher and the student and peers.  Teachers are able to more actively participate in student learning, provide feedback as students encounter challenges, and promote active learning among students.
In-person instruction may be particularly beneficial for students with additional learning needs. Children with disabilities may not have access through virtual means to the specialized instruction, related services or additional supports required by their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans. Students may also not have access through virtual means to quality English Language Learning (ELL).
Social and emotional health of students can be enhanced through schools
Social interaction among children in grades K-12 is important not only for emotional wellbeing, but also for children's language, communication, social, and interpersonal skills. Some students may have experienced social isolation and increased anxiety while not physically being in school due to COVID-19. Resuming in-person instruction can support students' social and emotional wellbeing. Schools can provide a foundation for socialization among children. When children are out of school, they may be separated from their social network and peer-to-peer social support. Schools can facilitate the social and emotional health of children through curricular lessons that develop students' skills to recognize and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, appreciate others' perspectives, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Mental health of students can be fostered through school supports and services
Schools are an important venue for students to receive emotional and psychological support from friends, teachers, and other staff members. Lengthy school building closures can leave some students feeling isolated from important friendships and support from other caring adults. Schools also provide critical psychological, mental and behavioral health (e.g., psychological counselling, mental and behavioral assessment) services to children who may not have access to these services outside of school. School closures have limited the availability of these services. Furthermore, isolation and uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic can create feelings of hopelessness and anxiety while removing important sources of social support. Some students may have experienced trauma through the loss of a loved one from COVID-19.