This is a Tough One
As governors in some states begin to relax restrictions on businesses from the COVID-19 shutdown, they’ve decided to leave the school buildings closed. Since this is a very tough call, it helps to be aware of the pros and cons that governors and state leaders need to consider in this critical decision.
Children’s Minimal Role in Transmission
Children are less vulnerable to serious coronavirus illness and death than adults. In the United States, the CDC reports that when the number of deaths was 21,000 Americans who had died of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 as of April 18, only 3 fatalities were in children 14 or younger.
What’s more, emerging evidence suggests children play a smaller role in transmission. A study of household clusters in China found that children under 20 years of age were less than a third as susceptible to the virus as their adult counterparts and also slightly less infectious to others.
There May be Significant Learning Losses
The rapid implementation of distance learning programs and remote therapy has proven highly successful. However, for some, this is new and for most, learning online doesn’t replace the classroom experience with a teacher. What’s more, many parents and children are beginning to tire of the process.
Recent demonstrations across the country in states like Michigan found protesters demanding that governors reopen businesses by canceling stay-home orders. But even if the governors of these states acquiesced to their demands, many of those businesses would be unable to fully function at capacity if their employees needed to remain home with children not yet attending school. If “opening up the country” is to be attained, then children need to return to school.
School Is Compulsory, Not Voluntary
Even allowing businesses to open, won’t assure them, customers, as no one is required to walk into the store. Everyone will patronize businesses at their discretion.
But attending school, which is compulsory, is quite another matter. And although kids at this point appear to be less likely to have cases of COVID-19 with symptoms, parents may be reluctant to send their children into school together with hundreds of children, where they could become infected or carry the virus back home.
Maintaining Social Distancing is Highly Problematic
Any plan to open up a school will, at the very least, require mandating the children to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing. But there is reasonable skepticism as to whether teachers can enforce this with children. And what about food sharing, a favorite pastime of children. How are teachers supposed to control that?
Fear for the Employees
Aside from keeping children and their families safe, protecting teachers and staff needs to be considered as well. In many communities, school districts are their most significant employers, and as such, employees have a legitimate concern about contracting COVID-19 or spreading it.
Recently Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, floated the idea of opening schools for just a few weeks. The response of the Florida Education Association was unequivocal, and without hesitation, “COVID-19 presents more questions than answers. It also presents a threat that we cannot control. The potential damage that could be done to families and entire communities from an outbreak of COVID-19 at even one school far outweighs the inconvenience of continuing distance learning for the rest of the school year.”
Federal Guidelines Remain Fuzzy
Unfortunately, the directives coming from the Federal Government have been somewhat ambiguous. Struggling to find a way to resolve health concerns with the path and timeline to bring things back to “normal” has left many governors confused as to how to proceed.
Education groups have complained that the guidelines emanating from the federal government don’t adequately clarify how to keep students safe upon their return. Those guidelines thus far are primarily focused on businesses, and presume that the states will be able to determine contagion both quickly and accurately. The sad truth is that many governors and health officials beg to disagree.
The Bottom Line
The decision to close the schools in the first place was taken with great trepidation. And the decision to reopen the schools will require no less, and perhaps even more. We can only hope that every governor fully understands everything involved in this weighty decision and will exercise excellent judgment.
Help Your Students Cope with the Crisis
The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists, and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy. Click here to learn more.