While we have watched Pennsylvanians suffer from this horrible virus, lose their jobs and their livelihoods, and witness utter economic devastation, we have also seen our children suffer at the hands of this pandemic and the unilateral shutdowns.
It has now been over a year since Pennsylvania entered into a state of emergency and was shut down by the governor as COVID-19 made its way into our state, which meant that our children were prevented from in-school lessons and had to finish out their school year virtually.
Many teachers were thrown into unknown territory as most of our school districts did not have the immediate means to offer virtual lessons and had to quickly adapt to ensure their students were still able to learn the critical skills needed to advance to the next grade. Parents had to assume the role of a co-teacher since they needed to follow along with their children’s virtual learning. This was especially challenging for parents with multiple children and for those who were also trying to balance other job responsibilities.
Our children not only have had to adjust to virtual learning, but they have had to find ways to cope with the fact that they could not have the important in-person social interactions that are key to their continued development. Not having our kids in school full time has proven to be detrimental to many children’s abilities to learn and retain what they are taught. Additionally, we have seen an increase in youth depression and suicides that have stemmed from the hardships put on them by the pandemic and school closures. This absolutely cannot continue.
As the pandemic progressed, the federal government has provided $6.29 billion in federal funding to our school districts statewide, with schools in the 131st Legislative District specifically receiving $26.54 million through the last three federal stimulus bills enacted since March 2020. These funds are to be used to assist schools in implementing important safety measures and allow them to fully open their doors to provide a safe learning environment for our children.
As my colleagues and I continue to advocate for our students and teachers, I wanted to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to all students, parents, teachers and school officials for their continued patience and cooperation during these difficult times. I know it has been frustrating and exhausting for everyone with the constant changes and adaptations. With the recent announcement that teachers will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccination, it is my hope that this will speed up the process to allow in-person learning and help return teachers and families to a sense of normalcy and stability.
Rep. Milou Mackenzie
131st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Abby Chiumento