People do not live in silos
People do not live in silos. Schools do. If this prolonged school closure has taught us anything, it is that schools need to recognize the expanded role they have in our society.
When schools first closed two months ago now, one of the first concerns was how are the children who receive 1-2 meals a day from school going to be fed. Distribution sites were set up. Food service staff were called in to work as essential staff which indeed they are. It took a while for the logistics to get worked out. Who could pick up the meals? Did it need to be the student? What kind of ID would be needed for an adult to pick up the food? School districts in Maryland have now delivered thousands and thousands of meals for students. One district has switched from breakfast, lunch and a snack to no snack but breakfast, lunch and dinner. The expanding rate of unemployment leads one to believe that these meals are being shared with others in the house.
Food is not the only thing schools provide. We need to realize that whether we want to admit it or not, schools are more and more becoming community centers. Particularly in low socio-economic areas, schools need to more aggressively become community centers. Not only can schools dispense food, they also need to be physical and mental health centers as well. Health centers in schools can provide vaccinations, well-student check-ups, birth control information, birth control meds, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction (yes there are kids in our schools who are both using and peddling drugs) and mental health support. There are people who will tell you these are not the roles of a school. And they would be correct. I remember when many people thought that sex education was not the role of a school. But families weren’t doing it and the kids needed the information.
We have learned from the school closures that our families aren’t doing a lot of things that need doing. Whether it is because they do not have the resources, are over-whelmed just keeping food on the table and a roof over their heads or because they really are not interested. Do the reasons really matter? Society is seeing huge fall out from failing families. Next up is the question of just who is going to pay for all this. Well in many ways we are already paying for these services in a very splintered and bureaucratic manner through the health departments, mental hygiene departments and departments of juvenile services. We provide the services in silos, but we don’t live our lives that way. Let’s put our money and personnel into tearing down the silos, reducing the number of bureaucrats populating all the silos, and put the service and the money into our schools that are already community centers in realty, it is time we make them community centers as an organized function.