Leah Costello: Keeping schools open is more important than ever

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Leah Costello, MD, of Hinesburg, who is a pediatrician at Timber Lane Pediatrics in South Burlington and a parent of three children.

A couple of weeks ago my son Theo had trouble falling asleep so he and I did a mindfulness activity on gratitude. He was grateful for being at school four days a week.  

He is not alone. As a pediatrician I see kids in my office all day who feel this way. And  honestly, as a parent, I feel this way too.  

I am honored to serve as physician consultant to my local school district’s reopening  committee. As part of my role, I have been meeting with teachers and administrators as they reopen grades K-6 to full time in-person learning. I am amazed at how our teachers, staff and administrators are bending over backwards to keep our children safe at school. I  read the revised Strong and Healthy Start document from the Agency of Education and the Department of Health. There are so many guidelines, but our schools make sure every single guideline is in place to keep our kids safe. And these heroic efforts are working, there is little to no transmission of Covid-19 within schools in Vermont. That is incredible;  thank you, schools!  

Parents and guardians, it is now our turn to step up and show that same level of  commitment to our community. It is our job to keep Covid-19 out of the schools. It is clear  that social gatherings, not schools, are causing the surge in cases. Given this data Gov. Phil Scott released a new executive order to refrain from any social gatherings. At a time when pandemic fatigue is at its highest, we are being asked to go further and do more to restrict our social activities. These new orders are really hard for all of us. Despite the challenge we must make these drastic changes so we can keep our community safe and our children in school. Since opening in September, schools have been making sacrifices for our children and now we must do the same for them.  

Here is the really hard part. We need to seriously think about the upcoming holidays and how we can keep our children, teachers, and schools safe and healthy. This means not traveling or having extended family gatherings for the holidays. If Vermonters travel or attend family gatherings for the holidays and Covid-19 cases increase even more, we may be in the same position we were in the spring or worse. We MUST do everything we can to  prevent that! Changing our holiday plans is really hard, I know. I am devastated about this  too — family and friends are extraordinarily important to us.  

Vermont continues to lead the country in management of Covid-19. We continue to have a very robust and phenomenal contact-tracing program to find cases and prevent the spread of the virus. Despite that, we are seeing increased cases of Covid-19 and we are certainly NOT immune. Please do your part to keep Covid-19 out of the schools so we can keep our kids in school and our schools healthy. This is on us, parents, and I know we can do it.  

If you have questions about prevention, safety and Scott’s recent executive order prohibiting any social gatherings please look to this webpage for information.


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