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The omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to lead to more infections, leaving educators, parents and students to grapple with evolving policies and more disruption in schools and at home.

But many — teachers and parents alike — have found solutions as elusive as ever before as America struggles to achieve some form of pre-pandemic normalcy.

To help answer some of the many unanswered questions and spotlight the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the academic community, the Johns Hopkins Health and Education Training (HEAT) Corps program has planned an “Omicron and the Schools” virtual town hall for parents and teachers.

Organizers have scheduled two sessions. The first for parents will begin at 6 p.m. EST Tuesday. Teachers are the focal point of the second session, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Both are open to the public, and organizers said they’ll take questions in advance at HEATCorps@jhu.edu.

“JH HEAT Corps is committed to sharing scientific facts about the pandemic with students and will continue to do the same for parents and teachers,” Audrey Johnson, director of economic innovation and strategy for the office of economic development, said in a statement. “Our audience of students, parents, teachers and other educators have many questions about the omicron variant and how it affects their children attending school, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to get those questions answered by subject matter experts.”

The town halls will feature panelists Panagis Galiatsatos, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Patty Wilson, assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, with specialties in the mental health social determinants of health/poverty and trauma.

Moderated by Annette Anderson, assistant professor and faculty lead for school administration and supervision in the Johns Hopkins School of Education, the goal of the town halls is to provide parents and teachers a safe space to ask pressing questions about the omicron variant.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced plans to make 10 million COVID-19 test kits available each month for schools to keep classrooms open.

Overall, recent statistics show that 63% of Americans are fully vaccinated. However, among children ages 12 to 17, the rate sits at 54%. Among those 5 to 11, the rate drops further to 17%.

In early 2021, in response to looming questions and confusion many teachers and children had about the COVID-19 pandemic, HEAT Corps worked with subject matter experts in the School of Education, School of Public Health, and School of Medicine to develop an age-appropriate 45-minute curriculum based on the biology of COVID-19, vaccines, variants, and more related topics.

According to a news release, HEAT Corps also has worked around the country and the world to host classroom presentations, town halls, and other informative events about the COVID-19 pandemic, providing the public with the information needed to make informed decisions about their health.

Within the past year, HEAT Corps has been taught in 18 states, the District of Columbia and six countries, and partnered with nonprofit organizations to present town halls developed to empower the public with proven facts on COVID-19 and preventative measures.

Johns Hopkins HEAT Corps engages K-12 students attending schools in Baltimore, across the country and abroad in a crucial educational dialogue about COVID-19 — students meet virtually via Zoom with trained Hopkins instructors to complete the HEAT Corps curriculum.

“We believe that youth advocates represent an integral part of an inclusive pandemic response,” officials said in a statement.

To learn more and schedule a session, go to heatcorps.jhu.edu or follow @JHHeatcorps on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Town hall participants are encouraged to send their questions in advance to heatcorps@jhu.edu and register to attend at bit.ly/heatcorpstownhall.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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