National Academies Advises Full-Time Reopening of Schools
published on August 27, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
Around the nation, one of the most pressing questions being asked over and over is "Should we be reopening schools in the fall?" Every district in America is currently faced with what seems like an impossible choice: weighing the needs of children to be educated against the chances of contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Every district is coming to its own decision; there is no consensus. Some are remaining fully closed, others are partially opening, others still will attempt a full return to five-day-a-week classes. Arguments for and against every solution are being floated.
Recently, the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine ("National Academies") came out strongly in favor of full re-opening. Here's what it had to say.
Why the National Academies Believe in Reopening Schools
The National Academies' argument focuses primarily on the long-term benefits to the students. In-person learning is generally considered to be more effective than remote learning systems, and it is concerned that long-term remote learning will stunt students' educational growth. It also - correctly - points out that there is a significant gap between students of different socioeconomic strata. If a low-income student lacks reliable internet access, how are they supposed to keep up with classes being entirely conducted online?
The National Academies also points out the secondary benefits provided to students by schools, such as meal programs, and access to better educational resources via libraries and computer labs. In addition, sending children back to school serves as a form of child care, and will make it easier for their parents to return to normal work.
If it says, proper safety measures are implemented and followed, the risk to students can be minimized. Plus, children are less susceptible to COVID-19 than other age groups.
Are the National Academies' Recommendations Practical?
There is a major issue with the National Academies' recommendations, one which it directly acknowledges: implementing proper safety measures will be expensive - potentially costing districts millions of dollars to implement. Even small districts could be looking at six-figure costs.
Where is that money supposed to come from? The Academies merely hopes that the state or federal government will take up the slack.
Another major concern is not that the children themselves become sick, but that they become carriers of the disease. A child exposed to COVID-19 at school will then expose its family to it - including, very likely, people in high-risk groups such as the elderly.
Plus, many teachers' unions are strongly opposed to reopening schools. The perception is that teachers will be on the proverbial "front lines," among the most likely to become infected.
This isn't an easy problem, with no clear answers. How is your district going to deal with COVID-19 and reopening? Let us know in the comments!