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Back in early 2020, any thinking person knew that school closures and other COVID-related measures (e.g., masking, distancing, contract-tracing, etc.) would have a negative impact on kids’ mental health and emotional development. Such people were dismissed as alarmists and seen as negative for not sharing the “we’re all in this together” attitude.

Well, here we are two years later and we now have a serious problem on our hands.

This week, three school superintendents met with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to describe the full extend of the problem. Lynn superintendent, Patrick Tutwiler, told BESE members that he was

deeply concerned about the long-term impact of the pandemic on the mental health of my students. Over the course of a year we’ve experienced students with extreme anxiety, depression, and dysregulation in numbers far exceeding any other year in memory. This along with the number of students who have experienced stunted development of social skills and behavioral norms has stretched of the clinical team in Lynn.

Superintendent of Billerica schools, Timothy Piwowar, noticed a similar trend in his district. He stated that this year has been tougher than last year because students and faculty were optimistic that this year school life would return to normal.

But that optimism was replaced by fear and anger as cases rose in late summer and COVID restrictions returned. Unfortunately those negative emotions have permeated so many aspects of our schools. We see it in the mental health needs of our students which were already precipitously rising before COVID and where the pandemic has only exacerbated those needs.

Despite the obvious psychological damage done to the state’s school kids, neither the superintendents nor the board members took anytime to reflect on whether the restrictions they imposed were worth the harm they caused.

The superintendents also expressed concern over severe staff shortages and growing resentment among parents. They asked the board to (1) lower the state’s licensure standards for teachers to help ease the staffing problems and (2) eliminate the need for school administrators to address complaints filed against faculty and staff.