Over the last several months, WNY Students First has heard from many students, parents, caregivers, and teachers who have shared their stories about the ways in which remote learning has impacted the health of so many children in Western New York. The health consequences are real and they are heartbreaking.
While officials in Erie County refuse to even acknowledge the health crisis among our youngest citizens, it is important for our members to know that they are not alone, that their voices are being heard, and that WNY Students First is committed to helping all of its members in whatever way it can.
To that end, WNY Students First will be hosting online informational meetings over the next several weeks to bring students, parents, teachers, school leaders, doctors, and scientists together to raise awareness of the safety of schools and to help families find the support that their children need after more than a year of remote instruction.
These information sessions will focus on three critical areas: 1) mental health, 2) educational gaps, and 3) the safety of schools.
To be clear, these informational meetings are not meant to divert attention from the meaningful work being done by all counties in Western New York as it relates to educating the community about the importance of vaccinations and the use of masks. Indeed, it is the effectiveness of both vaccinations for school staff and masks for children that has made schools safe.
Rather, these informational meetings are intended to help address the void that has been created by the lack of local leadership on the issues of children’s health and school safety.
Earlier this year, WNY Students First focused its efforts on raising awareness of the impact of prolonged school closures on the mental health of children, highlighting the scientific research that shows that schools are safe when masks are used, and attempting to engage with the local officials to help schools reopen safely.
While WNY Students First remains focused on the mental health of students and the safe reopening of schools, it is clear that our efforts to engage with Erie County have failed. Sadly, we have concluded that the leaders there are more interested in politics than the health of our children.
Nonetheless, WNY Students First remains committed to doing what it can to support students throughout Western New York. The upcoming informational meetings reflect our continued commitment to address some of the misinformation coming from Erie County, raise awareness of the issues facing school-aged children, help families find the support that they need, and work cooperatively with school district stakeholders to reopen safely.
In addition, WNY Students First will be engaging with other counties in Western New York to make sure that needs of students there are being addressed as well. So far, WNY Students First has been extremely encouraged by the efforts of officials in other counties in Western New York to help schools reopen safely and support those children that have suffered from more than a year of remote instruction.
This does not mean that WNY Students First is giving up on Erie County. Our invitation to work in partnership with Erie County officials remains open as the sole objective of WNY Students First is to advocate for students in the region.
Furthermore, WNY Students First encourages its members in Erie County to reach out whenever the organization can help. Specifically, we want to hear from those families that are struggling to find support for their school-aged children. We want to hear from stakeholders in school districts that are not following the science in reopening. We want to hear from school officials that believe that the County is not working in good faith to help them reopen safely, as recommended by the NYSDOH. And, we want to hear from those who believe that the ECDOH is inappropriately quarantining students and staff that are not within 6 feet of an infectious person for more than 15 minutes, as recommended by the CDC. WNY Students First will continue to advocate for those students in Erie County that are being harmed by not having access to the essential service of in-person education.
WNY Students First will not be distracted by the petty and divisive political agendas of local politicians. Instead, WNY Students First will remain steadfast in its commitment to support all students and schools in Western New York through community engagement, education, and advocacy.
We look forward to seeing you on one of our upcoming informational webinars and continuing the important work to advocate for students throughout Western New York during these challenging times.
As always, please reach out with any questions or thoughts.
WNY Students First