2020 has been a crazy year, to say the least. We’re all adjusting to the new socially-distanced and masked-up normal. One of the biggest issues that we’re having to face as we’re deep into summer is the daunting question: “Should school open in-person this fall?”
All the Risks Involved
In the US and UK, the majority of schools closed in early to mid-March. If students go back by August/September, that will mark 5-6 months without the experience of a pre-COVID school day, or, for many who don’t have access to online classes, any type of formal schooling. How long will we keep kids home? Buuuutt.... do we want to risk our beloved children testing positive for the coronavirus? Or possibly transmitting it to Grandpa? And then there's the discussion about the health of teachers.
Let's take a deeper look at some of the risks of going back to in-person education in this article. It's going to be a wild ride, folks.
What Do Experts Say?
One of the most overwhelming opinions in this debate is that of doctors and scientists. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids go back to school in the fall, even if for nothing else but the in-person social element. As I mentioned before kids would've been out of school for six months with no in-person interaction and, essentially, completely casting away what a normal school day looks like. 4 out of 10 parents agree. Of course, the AAP adds, we must reopen with caution due to coronavirus infection rate spikes and hot spots. Namely, my hometown Houston! Woohoo! Overflowing hospitals! SOMEONE SAVE THE HUMAN RACE.
Several pro-school scientists cite data from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The case study surveyed just under 150,000 people and pulls data from around the world. It concludes that children age seventeen and under account for fewer than 2% of confirmed infections across the United States and have a 58% reduced chance of testing positive for COVID after exposure to an infected individual when compared to adults. Across seven countries from late March to May 19, there were 44 COVID-19 deaths out of over 137 million children 19 and under. That’s a rate of less than 1 in 3 million, or .0003% (Public Health journal). As Dr. Benjamin P Linas, MD, said in an article for Vox, "that is a lot of similar results for this to be a fluke". That's promising, right?
So it's a good idea to go back to school, right?
Though the numbers do speak for themselves, things get worrisome here. According to the MIT Technology Review, "Children are likely to have more close contact with others than adults do, especially in a school, which could potentially mitigate the protective benefit they get from being less likely to catch the virus in the first place." Whoo! That goes down like a bowling ball. What's more, many of the adults children will come into contact with at school - faculty and teachers, are over 65 and so are in a group that is highly at risk.
Children could either transmit or receive the coronavirus from their teachers. Rather than deal with the hassle of one week on-, one week off-campus scheduling, or staggered groups of students, or even restructuring classrooms, many suggest riding out the storm by maintaining the 'new normal' and teaching via Google Meet or Zoom for the entirety of the school year, and others advocate for half in-person and half online classes. To sum up my experience with Zoom learning this spring, I'll use an anecdote. A good friend of mine, Colton, once said "I never knew I could be so productive in one day without the scheduling of in-person classes. And I also learned more about myself." To which my English teacher replied. "And what is that?" Colton, with a straight face, said. "I kinda hate this distance-learning thing."
If your head is spinning as far as which side of the debate you're on, don't worry. You're not alone. The headline below really sums up my entire thought process writing this article.
Yes, Jackie. A total mess. Some kids don't show any symptoms, and others are diagnosed with severe Kawasaki disease. There's tons of legal barriers for valuable studies to pass through. And, sweet cheese, politics always has to come into the frame.
For me, I'd love to go back to school if conditions allow, as most of us (students) would. A California mom told a local paper that distance learning was 'a living hell' and her ten-year-old son nodded. That's the point we're at, people. Come on!
But listen, I'm not going to tell you which side to choose. It's a combination of your values, the situation where you live...and what a smart scientist says. See, my opinion is that the biggest thing we need right now is for schools to be exceedingly cautious and flexible, which they have been over the last several months. The most unique thing about the crisis we face right now is there is no telling what will happen in the next second, minute, hour, or day. We are literally living through a constant surprise... and not a good surprise.
And with that, I leave you, dear reader. Share your thoughts with me in the comments; I'd love to hear your take on this issue.