As parents and former teachers, we know how important school is. And by school, we don’t mean online learning. Students need to socialize, they need the give-and-take of a classroom discussion.
But we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which by fall could get worse. We must balance the risk of COVID-19 with the possible effects of missing an important educational experience.
The conservative Wall Street Journal says the evidence "argues overwhelmingly for schools to reopen." They cite the fact that young children seem to have "relative immunity" to the disease and that the Centers for Disease Control says only 30 kids under 15 have died from it.
But these deaths happened, presumably, when most children were not in school. Many have been "sheltering in place" and not part of a crowded classroom in a class that can be either most of the day, or in high school at least 40 minutes. What happens if school reopens with traditional practices?
And still? Thirty dead children? Is that okay? What if one of them were yours? Would you want to be a COVID-19 statistic? And if school reopens, that thirty could easily become three thousand.
And the novel coronavirus has shown us, more than ever, the inequalities in race, wealth and place. Claire Cain Miller in the July 16 New York Times has an article about a private school in Honolulu. "The school has an epidemiologist on staff and is installing thermal scanners in the hallways to take people’s temperatures as they walk by. It has a new commons area and design lab as well as an 80-acre campus that students can use to spread out. There were already two teachers for 25 children, so it will be easy to cut classes in half to meet public health requirements for small, consistent groups."
Public schools do not have the money for these options. In Chicago, many classes were already overcrowded and there were no nearby facilities or outdoor venues to hold classes. And most schools, rural or urban, do not have the money to hire an epidemiologist or install thermal scanners.
It’s easy for the Wall Street Journal to say that teachers and administrators "have a duty" to open schools. Probably their staff writes their opinions at home or at desks where they can easily practice social distancing. But with children in school, teachers and parents are also in danger.
It will take money for schools to open safely. Joe Biden has called on Congress to pass a $30 billion emergency education package, saying building upgrades and sanitation protocols must be in place before schools reopen.
Biden has also outlined five steps necessary for reopening. First of all, the virus must be "under control," something President Trump has resisted even discussing.
Second, the country must "set national safety guidelines [and] empower local decision-making." This means that Trump cannot dictate to every school district. And his threat to withhold federal funding if a district does not reopen is an empty one, as the money is appropriated by Congress.
Third, emergency funds must be provided. In addition to the $30 billion, he calls for $4 billion to upgrade technology and broadband. There cannot be online learning at all if students don’t have the means.
Fourth and fifth, improve remote learning and close the gap between poor and minorities, and the more affluent.
We’re very concerned about the health of the nation’s children and grandchildren. We want them to have the best educational experience possible in an extraordinary time. They are our future.
Chuck and Pat Wemstrom live in rural Mount Carroll. Email: email@example.com.
via Journal Standard
July 24, 2020 at 10:17AM