Categories: COVID-19Opinion

McKENNA: School Shutdowns Hurt Kids and We Owe Them More Than They’re Getting

Laura McKenna is an education writer based in New Jersey. You can find her at This was originally published at Laura McKenna’s Newsletter, Apt. 11D.

Alyssa Rosenberg has a column in today’s Washington Post with the no-duh statement of the year — children bore the brunt of the pandemic. But she says that we shouldn’t waste time with a “woulda coulda” thinking. Instead, we should find ways to make children whole.

Uh, no. I do want accountability for the destruction done to American’s children. A generation of children will NEVER recover. And pundits like Rosenberg are responsible for this; this disaster was entirely predictable. She should have known and used her massive platform to advocate for children. But columnists and leaders didn’t acknowledge that the shutdowns were hurting children until earlier this year.

I’m not over it. These school shutdowns were very personal. My children are both still paying the price for closed schools. Watching his professors’ droning YouTube lectures and struggling to get them to answer emails, my college kid didn’t finish college on time; he is upstairs doing another miserable online class right now. Between 1-1/2 years of social isolation and this past year in a new, understaffed transition program, my smart autistic kid experienced a serious regression in social skills.

When his shitty summer program ends next week, Ian will have six weeks with nothing to do, until his new transition program starts in September. Unlike other 20-year olds, his social skills aren’t good enough to get a job in McDonald’s. Steve and I will take a week off to take him on a vacation, but the other five weeks will be idle and isolated.

Anybody want to take my autistic kid to a bowling alley on a Thursday afternoon?

I’ve been highlighting the catastrophe since the beginning. In March 20, 2020, in a newsletter titled “It’s the End of Public Education As We Know It, but I Feel Fine!”, I wrote,

“What I’ve witnessed in the past week is the absolute implosion of public education. Who knew that this 100-year old institution would falter so severely? I suppose that at this moment in time, schools are the least of our problems, but I’m still going to talk about them anyway.”

Later, I called for reparation for children back in May 2021:

We owe kids. They were promised a dozen eggs, and they only got six. We can’t just pretend that this year and a half didn’t happen.

How can we make it up to kids? How can we get them back on track? … summer school and tutoring.

Parents and teachers told me horror stories about what was happening to kids, and I did my best to share those stories through my newsletters, which was really the only outlet for those stories; opinion page editors didn’t publish those types of pieces until recently. Last month, I could help but say, “I TOLD ‘YA SO.” Not terribly mature, I suppose, but I was frustrated.

I’m angry. I’m not over it. Ian is entitled to compensatory education from public education. At one point during the pandemic, he was so isolated that I paid public school teachers, during school hours, just to talk to him. But to actually get him some extra help, I had to hand over large sums to an attorney and spend a full year doing research/record-keeping. Ian is just starting to get that extra help now.

Without access to attorneys and a mom with OCD-fueled record keeping skills, most children will never get extra help. Children — unlike teachers, administrators, school board members, and school janitors — do not have a union or powerful interest group that represents their interests at the national or local level. Parents, who are the only protector for children, are out-gunned by those other organizations. Progressive Democrats have yet to speak openly about the huge need for tutors and other specialized (and expensive) programs to help children make up for lost time in school.

I’m glad that pundits like Rosenberg have finally recognized that America’s children need more help. Perhaps if we get more late-in-the-day allies on board, something might actually happen. As much as I would love to see accountability, I will swallow my anger in order to focus on remedies.




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