The question that is looming throughout the country this summer is whether schools will reopen this Fall with Coronavirus looming? The American Enterprise Institute and the National Center For Education Statistics look at the data and determine if it will be safe for teachers, students, and parents. As an education cleaning company, we worked with many schools throughout the Metro East region of St. Louis. This is a question that we are hearing too.
To answer that question, you have to first look at the data that has been collected throughout the world concerning the Coronavirus. According to the American Enterprise Institute, between March and October 2020, fewer than one child in a million died of Covid-19. Of course, any child’s death is one to many. According to the data:
- 15 out of million died in car accidents
- 9 out of million died by suicide
- 5 out of million died by homicide
The question that keeps getting asked by many is, why did we close schools to begin with? With so few deaths in children across the country by Coronavirus, wouldn’t it have been fine keeping them open?
These are great questions; one of the first reactions is when you are in a pandemic of any kind, the CDC’s(Center for Disease Control) playbook says when you have an infectious respiratory virus spreading, you close schools to stop the spread. Typically kids tend to be more susceptible to disease and even death. But over the past year of living through the Coronavirus, it doesn’t act like a typical respiratory virus.
So, it was right to close schools to protect kids, but the data shows that it was wrong to keep them closed, given the amount of research data on the virus and the mitigation measures to keep kids and teachers safe.
There are two ways to look at the problem a year after the pandemic hit the United States. The first is, what is the risk to students? And two, what is the risk to teachers? Students may spread the Coronavirus, flu or any other illness throughout a school. Research shows that students less than 10 years old are less susceptible to severe disease, while high schoolers are slightly more susceptible.
From the AEI website:
• The vast majority of research from around the world suggests that children comprise a small proportion of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, develop less severe illness, and have lower mortality rates. Attending school does not increase risk to children, particularly if health protocols are followed. Some children, faculty, and staff do face higher risks due to pre-existing health conditions and other social determinants of health. These individuals should have additional accommodations to protect them, including the option to teach or learn from home.
• Evidence points to schools mirroring the transmission rates of their communities. Schools themselves do not appear to drive community transmission. High school students are more likely to contract and spread infection, but there is considerably less risk in grade school children.
• Protective measures such as mask wearing, physically distancing, increasing hygiene regimens, and improving ventilation add layers of protection that can mitigate risks for students and school staff. COVID-19 vaccinations, symptomatic testing and isolating potentially infected individuals, and asymptomatic COVID-19 screening tests offer additional preventive benefits.
• Any public health benefit gained from school closures must be weighed against the significant—and potentially lasting—costs imposed on individual students and society as a whole. A growing body of research suggests children face greater health risks due to missed health screenings, food insecurity, and mental health challenges. Severe learning loss for many children, particularly children of color, will lead to lower educational attainment and lower future earnings.
So how can schools open safely this Fall 2021? Here’s a blueprint for back to school from the AEI.org
- Families and communities need schools to be ready to reopen as soon as public health officials signal it is safe. When public health officials give the green light, schools should be prepared to reopen. And a number of public health officials have indicated that they expect schools will likely be able to reopen this fall.
- Together with a task force of accomplished educational leaders—including former state chiefs, superintendents, federal education officials, and charter school network leaders—this report sketches a framework that can help state policymakers, education and community leaders, and federal officials plan appropriately for reopening.
- As communities and public officials start to think about the problems ahead, states, districts, and schools should consider at least six different buckets of work: school operations, whole child supports, school personnel, academics, distance learning, and general considerations. Because of the unique challenges of this moment, it is imperative that planning start now.
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