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Lewis Morris / May 19, 2020

Back to School?

There's already a battle over whether to put children back in school this fall.

As the 2019-20 school year finishes the home stretch, it’s now obvious that kids will have to wait till fall before they see the inside of a classroom again. Or will it be longer? Comments made by pandemic guru Dr. Anthony Fauci during a Senate hearing last week were reported to suggest that he recommended not opening schools this fall.

During the hearing, Fauci noted that we shouldn’t count on a vaccine before then, though he is confident that a vaccine will be developed at some point. The media spun his words to indicate that Fauci recommended keeping schools closed in the fall. President Donald Trump publicly disagreed with that idea.

Trump wants schools opened. Except for the elitist establishment, we all do. The big issue, of course, is safety. It’s become impossible to build consensus on what constitutes “safe” and how to achieve it. Ultimately, each state may proceed as it sees fit, but many state and local agencies look to the federal government for guidance on what to do next.

The biggest concern is whether we have enough evidence or even the right evidence to make informed decisions. An article in Wired magazine laying out the case for reopening schools points to mounting evidence from around the world that children have been largely unaffected by COVID-19. In Europe, many kids are already back at school, where the institutions are regularly disinfected, and class sizes and lunch periods have been refigured to comply with social distancing.

Senator Rand Paul, a physician and COVID-19 survivor, pressed Fauci with facts shared in the Wired article and data from major health organizations regarding childhood mortality and the China Virus. The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that only 1% of coronavirus patients were under 10 years old, and only 1% were aged 10 to 19 years old. Even in New York City, the epicenter for the virus in the U.S., only 10 deaths out of about 16,000 attributed to the China Virus have been those under the age of 18. More school children die of pneumonia each year.

Establishment-type elitists making the case for continued school lockdowns point to the concept that, while children may have a lower susceptibility to COVID-19, they have the potential to be carriers of the virus, bringing it home to older family members. However, the reasons why or to what extent are still unknown.

Still, maintaining an indefinite lockdown posture in the absence of medical absolutes we may never achieve is not doing our children or us any good. Long-term closure of schools has a negative effect on their understanding of important social dynamics, which are formed during school years. Long periods of being stuck at home can lead to depression and anxiety among kids as well as their parents, who must cope with their children’s stresses on top of their own. Increased mental-health problems and child abuse are the result.

Perhaps one of the most obvious points for getting kids back to school in the fall is because it will free up parents to get back to work — assuming they have that choice. Many parents have either had to leave their jobs or do home-based work while their kids are out of school. They can’t get back to business until their kids get back to school. Keeping children out of school also disproportionately affects lower-income families, who don’t have as many employment options, often can’t afford babysitters or nannies, or don’t have adequate computers and Internet connections for distance learning.

Rather than wait for a 100% all-clear to send our kids back to school, state and local governments should take this summer break to develop plans to create a safe and clean education environment. There are lessons to be learned by what some countries have done in Europe, and we owe it to our children to provide them the best education possible.

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