Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of children not attending school. UNESCO estimates that as much as 60% of the world’s student population suffers from school closures. In the US, state and federal officials are discussing the reopening of schools despite the pandemic still in full swing within the nation’s borders. Whether this is a good tactic or not remains to be seen. While the death rate of the virus seems to affect older adults more than children, there is no telling what the long-term effects of infection are likely to be.
Trump Administration Pushing a Fall Reopening
With many schools facing dire consequences from a lack of funding and students missing out on valuable teaching time, Secretary of Education in the US, Betsy DeVos, has been advocating for reopening those institutions in the fall. The CDC has noted that there is a need for reopening schools in the fall and published guidelines meant to aid in that process. Even students of the best private schools in the country can only deal with remote tutoring for so long. Some lessons are better delivered by a teacher in real life.
School Boards Argue Viability of CDC Guidelines
While the CDC guidelines are clear in what they suggest, school boards and principals have pointed out that the instructions are unenforceable under current conditions. With the number of students that the average high school caters to, the social distancing protocols would require more space per school than any of them currently has available. Additionally, teachers’ unions have stated that these guidelines play loose and fast with teachers’ safety. Even in a situation where community spread is low, all it takes is one infected individual to spread the virus in a close-quarters case like a school.
Ultimatum is The Wrong Approach
Setting out an ultimatum like the Secretary of Education seems to want to do is the wrong way to handle the issue. Since there are so many stakeholders regarding the school system, each one needs to be considered under their own merit. Ideally, the best approach to the problem is to use the CDC guidelines to frame a more practical approach to reopening. However, they are developed by people who aren’t aware of the limitations a school operates within. If the authorities take these guidelines as concrete, they miss the limiting factor of the school infrastructural boundaries. Without this reasoned attempt, reopening may not be practical under the conditions.