New report highlights impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on Philadelphia's youth

A new report by a non-profit organization uncovered some of the disturbing impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children in Philadelphia. 

The data compiled by Children First shows that students in Philadelphia are failing to meet basic educational benchmarks. There has also been a troubling 62% jump in calls by Philadelphia's youth to suicide hotlines, according to the report. 

"Our kids are not doing well," Executive Director of Children First Donna Cooper said. "All calls across the state rose about suicide, bullying, anxiety, depression." 

A panel of education and healthcare experts gathered Monday to discuss the report and answer questions. Among the panelists were Dr. Ala Stanford, who founded the Black Dr. COVID-19 Consortium, and new Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. Tony Watlington.


Included in the report, researchers found that nearly 12,000 Philadelphia schoolchildren can't go to child care or pre-K because there are not enough teachers. Reading assessment results also showed a "dramatic decline" in 2nd through 5th grade proficiency from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021. 

Students from Philadelphia high schools spoke at the panel to give first-hand accounts of how the pandemic impacted their lives, educationally, mentally and socially.

"I left high school freshman year with a group full of friends and I came back without them," said Mikayla Jones, a Central High School senior. 

Parents also spoke on behalf of their children, sharing ways the pandemic and subsequent school shutdowns stole precious developmental years from kids. 

"My son lost his junior and some of his senior year, so he's going into college now and he doesn't have that same excitement that he used to have for school," said Angelina Melso, a mother of 3.

Repairing what the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed won't be easy, but Dr. Stanford suggested keeping schools open and increasing student resources. Similarly, Dr. Watlington said the entire community needs to step-up and support Philadelphia's schoolchildren. 

Parents, however, know the fix won't be fast. 

It's going to take a long time, that's how we recover - time - and then hopefully not going back to where it was," Melso said.