Amanda Adkins: Our children need to return to school and attend classes in person

We are days away from what should have been an exciting rite of passage across the Kansas City area — the first day of school. Yet here we are, uncertain about not just when the school year will begin, but more important, what it will look like.

Parents are frustrated by the prospect of an already-delayed school year beginning entirely remotely, as it will for Shawnee Mission School District students. As a mother with 15 years of experience in the health care sector, I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics: Our goal should be getting students safely back into classrooms.

Research suggests that children, particularly middle school and high school students, will contract and spread the virus. As such, we need to consider how schools reopen through a health care lens to ensure our community is safe and thriving. Community participation will be key in any successful reopening. Public health recommendations and science should drive our decisions.

When you keep children at home, there are many negative effects on their education, health care and social needs. Parents and teachers worry about how far behind children might fall become without proper educational support. We recognize children learn best when they are physically present in the classroom. Community leaders should consider how decisions impact education gaps between higher- and lower-achieving students.

A lack of social engagement has a negative impact on mental health. Anxiety and depression visits at primary care offices are on the rise. Nutrition and other basic needs — access to food, exercise and support services such as the internet — may not be met when schools are not physically open. Pediatricians worry about missing the at-risk child.

Read more of Amanda’s op-ed, co-authored with Mary Tyson, M.D., FAAP, in the Kansas City Star.