From questions about going to parks and later school start times, to concerns about proms, graduations and swimming pools, Bucks County Commissioners fielded an array of youth inquiries during a virtual student town hall earlier this week.
“Am I allowed to leave my house and go to a park?” asked one child. Commissioner Vice Chairman Bob Harvie, explained that with a parent’s permission, “yes,” that would be okay, providing social distancing is followed and, preferably, a mask is worn.
Citing information she found on the Centers for Disease and Prevention website that said getting enough sleep is an important part of staying healthy, a 10th-grader asked if high school could start later in the fall.
While all the commissioners agreed that a later start time would be beneficial, they told the student they don’t have authority to make such decisions.
“School should start later,” said Harvie, a former high school teacher, “but the commissioners don’t control when school starts.” The board members encouraged the student to gather like-minded pupils together and take their concerns to their school board.
Another question came from a high school student who wanted to know when he could get back into his school locker. “There’s not a lot of clarity on that,” said Harvie. Contacting the school principal or guidance counselor might help, he added.
A first-grader asked how the COVID-19 virus started and older students who wondered about their proms and graduations were directed to their school districts’ superintendents.
Those celebrations, said Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, will “depend on where we’re at with the virus … health and safety first.”
Responding to concerns about what kids who are depressed and anxious can do, Commissioner Chairwoman Diane Ellis-Marseglia provided phone numbers where students can find support.
Suicide and Crisis Prevention Services – 1-800-499-7455; Crisis Support for Families/ Lenape Foundation – 877-435-7709. Each has staff available to talk to any student or family member in need of help.
The National Alliance on Mental Health can be reached by texting “NAMI” to 741-741 at any time.
Looking ahead toward summer, questions about whether community pools will be open were on the children’s minds.
“We’re just not sure yet,” said Marseglia. “Chlorine does kill the virus, but social distancing is a problem.”
Dr. David Damsker, director of the county’s health department, said, “If we are in yellow and do it safely, we could reopen pools.” Currently, Bucks County remains in the red phase of the state’s reopening plan.