Piedmont doctors call for schools to reopen in letter to PUSD

Julie Reichle

Elementary schools in Piedmont may start to welcome students back this month.

A group of Piedmont doctors sent the following letter to the PUSD school board and administration on Wednesday morning, Jan 27. Yulia Rozen, a physician and mother of a third grader and rising kindergartner, was one of the organizing forces behind the letter. “Now that we have almost a year’s worth of data from schools around the world that have had in person instruction, it has become clear that schools are not the drivers of this pandemic as originally feared,” she said. “With proper safety measures in place, we now know that schools can be conducted safely in person and we can no longer delay getting our kids back into the classroom .”

Although some small groups of students have been allowed back on campus in recent weeks, most students have been in distance learning mode since March 16.

Last March, our school board, the Superintendent, and Alameda County acted on the best available information at the time and closed our schools to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

With limited data about the virus, this decision seemed wise and one that we, as medical professionals, supported at the time. In the intervening 10 months, we have learned a lot about the biology and epidemiology of the virus, both how it is transmitted and how to treat it. Early on, we assumed that children would be primary drivers of the virus; this assumption was later disproved.

During these months, we have also watched as schools elsewhere found ways to reopen safely. Our initial reaction was one of caution and concern, wondering if this was the right decision. Then, data from school reopenings began to surface and it became apparent that with the appropriate safety measures in place, schools could in fact safely provide in-person instruction. It also became very apparent that the longer we kept our students out of the classroom, and the longer they were subject to distance-learning, the more harm we were doing to them.

Without a doubt distance-learning is causing tremendous learning loss and profound mental health crises in children across all age spectrums. Data shows a significant increase in the number of children disclosing suicidal ideation, and dealing with acute mental health crises and eating disorders stemming from depression, anxiety, and social isolation. It is now clear that ongoing school closures are not based on evidence. Yet, despite all of this information, and despite the very serious calls from parents, students, scientists, and medical experts to reopen our schools, children in Piedmont remain in full-time distance- learning.

It is abundantly clear that the decisions made by the Alameda County Public Health Department, by PUSD’s administration, and the school board have not served in the best interest of our children.

There should be no more delay. There should be no more excuses. It’s time to open our schools. It’s time to honor the science we teach our students.

As medical and mental health professionals, we implore PUSD to return to in-person education for all students. With millions of school children around the world safely back in the classroom with their peers and teachers, we know that it can be done.

Yulia Rozen, MD
Daniel Levinsohn, MD
Steven Bailey, MD
Caitlin Bailey, MD   
Aaron Barber, MD
Karen Booth, MD
Danny P. Chan, MD
Kenneth Chen, MD
James E. Crawford-Jakubiak, MD
Elizabeth DaCosta, PA-C, MPH
Roopal Desai, MD
Naomi Edelson, PsyD 
Marisa Gardner, MD
Allison Hampton, MD
Sarah Handelsman, MD
Lauren Hartman, MD
Doug Hartman, MD
Adrian Hinman, MD
J. Michael Jumper, MD
Jacque Jumper, MD

Tanuja Karunakar, MD
Janet Lai MD, MPH
Laura Lang, MD
Patrick Lang, MD
Nel Latronica, MD
Mark Latronica, MD
Michelle Nee, MD
Quynh Nguyen, MD
Shilpa Patel, MD 
Ashish Patel, MD
Varun Saxena, MD, MAS
Michael Seider, MD
Alan L. Scott, MD
Sabrina Smith, MD, PhD
Amy Vallerie, MD
Robin Vora, MD
Doug White, MD
Eliza White, MD
David H Woo, MD
Monte M. Wu, MD

10 thoughts on “Piedmont doctors call for schools to reopen in letter to PUSD

  1. Thank you, doctors, for adding your voices to this important issue. Distance learning is not a sustainable solution for our children and, as a community, we need to find a way to get children safely back in the classroom.

  2. Thank you to these doctors and medical professionals who are not only willing to put their own lives on the line during this pandemic, but also their reputations as we navigate through the complicated issue of school re-opening.

  3. Our family would like to extend an enormous thank you for the MDs in our community for advocating for our students! As a family of economists, we believe that we have enough data that support a safe opening with the caveat that it is done in a safe way, as the MDs in the article support. We cannot forget the mental issues data that is also available showing that the decision to keep school closed are bringing more negative outcomes than protecting the community. #openourschools! Piedmont deserves better.

  4. Dear Editor:

    I do believe there is a way to return safely to the classroom especially for our youngest learners and learners with special needs. However, the letter above cites not one single article or study to support any of the claims made, nor does the letter from these medical professionals offer any guidelines nor does it suggest procedures nor protocols needed to ensure the health and safety of everyone who will be needed to make what ever system we create work.

    I hope these medical professional are willing to offer their professional services and consultation in ensuring that we do institute policies and procedures to safe guard our students, teachers and the entire community, and that they will take equal stake in the success or failure of that system.

    This is a public health crisis that requires the committed time and labor of medical professionals experienced with infection and disease control and should not be left to education professions however well versed they are in that discipline, to venture into an area outside of their experience and expertise without well documented studies and evidence based solutions. The medical community will need to carefully partner with our educators and provide best practices and guidance in a more meaningful manner than provided above.

    With all due respect,
    Richard Turner, M.D.

    • I agree completely with the wisdom of Dr. Richard Turner’s letter of caution. Hopefully, the MDs who composed and signed their letter urging “no more delay” in reopening will understand and accept that what Dr. Turner has communicated is a positive, productive, and necessary corollary to their proposition.

      • With all due respect, where does this letter discuss the safety protocols in plan to protect teachers? Is there a plan to offer vaccinations to teachers prior to reopening? Is there a supply of N95? I think it’s ironic that a list of doctors who are likely all vaccinated are suggesting teachers go back, without acknowledging the risks to them.

        • I have no doubt that the doctors who signed this letter believe more than most that the right safety protocols need to be in place. But I also believe they have confidence in the protocols the state, county and district have laid out. No one is saying re-open our schools without them and to be honest, it’s little disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    • To all those concerned about the safety protocols. I don’t believe this letter was meant to provide a detailed accounting of necessary safety precautions (PPE) or a digestion of the extensive scientific studies regarding the lack of school transmissions. The point is that there is ample scientific data to support that schools can return to in person teaching with appropriate PPE and protocols. I am surprised that the commenting medical professionals don’t already know that. I am an OUSD parent and OUSD has published online the status of their PPE procurement, and implementation of processes. The PPE and processes seem to satisfy the metrics that the widely distributed studies and data support for schools to return to in person learning. When science and data support a safe return to in person learning, for teachers and students, in the face of drastic and increasing harm to our kids (both emotional and learning loss), there is absolutely no justification for keeping schools closed.

      To those seeking an in depth analysis of the PPE and protocols required, or those that are concerned that safety precautions are not enough, you are of course welcome to submit your own references to peer reviewed scientific studies in reply herein. That too seems to be lacking.

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