Planning a safe return to school

Back to School with Eyewitness News

HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It is the question on the mind of every parent just weeks before school is supposed to start: Can my child return to the classroom safely?

That question was addressed in a House hearing Tuesday, but as Dennis Owens reports, it wasn’t really answered.

“I badly want kids to go back to school,” said Representative Patty Kim (D), Dauphin County.

Kim is a mom and a state representative who heard first hand the many obstacles to opening schools safely.

“All in all our schools need masks and shields and gloves,” Donna Westbrooks Martin of Tillotson School in Pittsburgh said.

Special needs children were left behind at the end of last year. Parents have gotten no assurances things will improve this year.

“This is a struggle for all families on a good day. Throw in a pandemic and it’s a real crisis,” Sherri Landis of Arc of PA said.

As private schools decide on pandemic protocols, will that entice more students to enroll or flee?

“I think all our schools are on egg shells to see how that’s gonna play out,” Gary Niels, PA Assistant of Independent Schools, said.

House Republicans insist kids should be in school and blame Governor Wolf, not the pandemic, for the uncertainty.

“Not giving clear instructions. Not giving clear guidance and leaving it to the locals,” House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman said.

Kim concedes online learning to start is probably safest but worries about parents who have to work and kids left home alone on devices.

“I don’t think the quality is gonna be there and I think the teachers know that,” Kim said.

And Kim knows…hopes…this too shall pass.

“My mantra to keep me sane is this is just temporary, just temporary we’re gonna get through this,” Kim said.

The bottom line is after several of these hearings parents and lawmakers have lots of questions, schools don’t have nearly enough answers, and the clock is ticking.

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