HOW I FOUND MY RHYTHM WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED

At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.

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THE MAN IN A BLUE SARONG

I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.

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PATIENT “OWNERSHIP”

I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.

….FULL ARTICLE

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There is a recent national survey of U.S. parents regarding school attendance for their children in the fall of 2020 published by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The conclusions of this study of 730 parents was that many parents planned to keep their children home in the fall of 2020. The authors of this article suggested that schools need to act soon to address parental concerns and provide options for what will be available for them should they opt to keep their children home. Structural barriers, such as lack of workplace flexibility for the parents and potential school-level inequities in implantation of preventive measures, must be acknowledged and addressed where possible.


Superintendent Caulk’s office at the Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) was contacted by phone twice and personal email once with no responses. Therefore, current information about FCPS reopening policy had to be gleaned from public sources.  Valarie Spears wrote an article on September 6, 2020 on Kentucky.com. She reports that on August 26, 2020, Fayette County Public Schools started virtual classes from home. Ms. Spears quotes one parent whose third grader had not been able to participate virtually, as their home did not have internet access, and her children’s school did not have a hotspot mobile device for her. This parent said that there were hundreds of others in Fayette County just like her. The article goes on to say that Fayette County has been offering hotspots to families without internet access at home, and they have been in high demand. In late August, the District distributed 1100 hotspots and was ordering more. This parent is one of many parents who have posted in a new Facebook group that drew more than 1300 members in its first week that, in part, takes aim at the district’s back-to-school decisions.


The article by Ms. Spears goes on to point out that Superintendent Manny Caulk met with the Lexington Forum on Thursday, September 3, 2020. Dr. Caulk is quoted as saying that “300 families in the District need hotspots for internet connectivity, and he is hoping after Labor Day, the District will receive 500 hotspots to reduce learning loss.” In a letter to families on Friday, September 5, 2020, he said “more hotspots would be arriving the week of September 14, 2020.”


Ms. Spears quoted another parent from the Facebook group who has two children, including one in kindergarten, who was just pulled out of public school to attend a private school. This parent said that “physically, she could not help her child in a 30-member Zoom call with crashing Chromebooks while taking care of her 2-year-old child and helping her KG child with math.” She claimed that “Fayette County Schools had not listened to the parents whatsoever.” Superintendent Caulk is quoted by Ms. Spears as saying that he “would rather have loss of learning by children not being able to attend school than loss of life from COVID- 19.” He went on to say, “We can always recover the learning. You can never recover a loss of life.” (I think educational research will not always give us a consensus that “we can always recover the learning;” reference 5 suggests otherwise due to child variables.)


Ms. Spears’ article points out that at the recommendation of Governor Beshear, Kentucky schools shut down in-person learning in March 2020, and he has asked that they not return to the classroom in-person until September 28, 2020. The Fayette County District has had a delay in large Chromebook shipments, but Caulk said at the Lexington Forum meeting that one shipment came in on Wednesday.  His Friday letter to parents said that an additional 2000 had arrived.  One of the parents stated that her school-aged children who stayed at daycare while she worked, used textbooks while they waited for their hotspot. She went on to say that Fayette County “should have had a head count of kids who needed hotspots months ahead.”


There is no question that COVID-19 is providing phenomenal challenges to our school systems throughout the United States. Pediatric recommendations are stringent, and many schools, frankly, will not be able to economically meet those recommendations.  Moreover, it is likely that many school systems will not have the digital ability to provide proper in-home instruction.   

Stanford University pediatrician, Jason Wang, M.D., Ph.D. published an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics that K-12 schools should aim to reopen in-person classes during the 2020- 2021 school year. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected K-12 education in 2020.3 K-12 virtual schooling is not suited for all students or all families. Individual students need to be motivated, organized, and supported. Differences in their environment, meaning their access to instructional support as well as their internet access, can cause significant variations in school success.


While research is scant, one review does indicate that specific teaching strategies used in online and blended environments can have a dramatically positive effect on outcomes. These authors have found in their research that online learning can be a more suitable solution than attending face-to-face in school, especially when a student may experience frequent absences due to illness and/or frequent visits for chronic health management. Moreover, it has been shown that children with special healthcare needs feel more in control of their education when participating in online learning.


Black et al. note that many schools are still considering online or blended instruction as a necessary alternative in the COVID-19 environment. Also, many families may be considering whether some or all of their children’s current or future education should take place online. Thus, parents should evaluate the unique strengths and needs of their child (children) by considering the following questions:  

BY ROBERT P. GRANACHER JR., MD, MBA


Parents should also learn more about the virtual school options available to them. They should seek to understand the following:  


ROBERT P. GRANACHER, JR., MD, MBA

Robert P. Granacher, Jr., MD, MBA practices clinical and forensic neuropsychiaty in Lexington and Mt. Vernon, KY. He is a noted scientific author and past president of the Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association. He is currently president-elect of the Lexington Medical Society and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.