Local pediatrician in favor of in-person learning for students

Local pediatrician in favor of in-person learning for students

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah-Chatham School leaders are hard at work figuring out what it would take to re-open their schools for in-person learning.

They are looking to identify specific benchmarks for their phased approach to begin.

Wednesday’s Savannah-Chatham Board meeting was a contentious one. Several parents spoke in favor of bringing students back to in-person learning, but so too did Memorial Health Pediatric Doctor Andrew Gunter.

“In-person learning is far superior and maybe even safer then e-learning. There are other countries in the world surrounding us and other counties surrounding us that are going back in person," said Dr. Gunter.

While Dr. Gunter believes students should be back in school, Dr. Thacker says the simple answer is, there is no simple answer.

“We are really living a natural experiment, right," said Pediatric Infectious Disease Dr. Stephen Thacker. "We don’t know the outcome of many of the changes to policies to how we manage businesses to how we open schools in this situation really to know what’s the best solution and so I think the best solution has to be tailored to every school environment and that solution may look different from one school system to the other.”

While doctors agree on mitigation techniques once students return to school, the metrics needed to get there are less clear. Dr Gunter said during Wednesday’s meeting Savannah-Chatham’s current expectation is not reasonable, but instead that they should allow all students to return sooner.

Dr. Thacker, a Savannah-Chatham parent himself, says there’s no magic number, but it’s better based on school readiness which will be a challenge with more students and buildings.

“It’s a challenging process to orchestrate changing the process around how school’s deliver in multiple locations for 37,000 students, but one that can be overcome," said Thacker. “I personally would want our community transmission to continue to drift down and I would want sort of reassurances about how we have children moving through the school environment during the day.”

Both pediatricians agree getting back to school is important, and are willing to help. Dr. Thacker has assisted school nurses, while Dr. Gunter volunteered a group of pediatricians to help the board re-enter school safely to help families who are struggling now.

“Please know we are a voice for our patients who have no say, we see the destruction of health and well being of children in our community and we’ve been examining patients safely for over seven months through this crisis. We can help show you how it can be done there just has to be will to get it done. Nothing is impossible," said Dr. Gutner.

The Savannah- Chatham School board is set to meet to discuss specific benchmarks for their phased reopening next Wednesday.

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