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Demosthenes's avatar

Is the fear of re-opening schools overblown?

Asked by Demosthenes (13548points) October 31st, 2020

Just saw an article in NPR that cited a few studies out of Spain and the U.S. showing that school re-openings are not correlated with a rise in COVID cases. Yet many parents are still steadfastly opposed to re-opening schools. Are parents’ fears not in line with the facts? Are we failing to address the risks of not opening schools?

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20 Answers

gorillapaws's avatar

I haven’t heard any strategy for reopening schools that makes any sense for preventing the transmission of a potentially deadly (and permanently disabling) virus that is airborne, highly contagious and can be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers. Kids are not compliant, and more importantly aren’t morally prepared to handle the responsibility of potentially causing the death of thousands of other people from a simple mistake.

“Are we failing to address the risks of not opening schools?”

That’s a fair point, but all of those risks (to my knowledge) have solutions. We don’t have a solution (i.e. a vaccine) for COVID. That means it has to take precedence.

New cases are rising quickly, and if the Spanish Flu is any indicator of what to expect, we are about to see a 500% increase from the previous high-water-mark over then next couple of months. In other words, everything we’ve experienced thus far could easily be a tiny ripple compared to the huge wave that’s coming. Viruses spread exponentially. Exponents get very big very suddenly.

I think the words of Michael Leavitt are worth considering:

“Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after a pandemic will seem inadequate.”

canidmajor's avatar

The fear is not overblown. The super high level of caution spawned by that very fear has helped keep the numbers in schools down, so far. There is no guarantee that those numbers will stay down, as the second wave surges.

My child is long out of school, but I can assure you, nobody’s fear for the health of their child(ren) during this time is “overblown”.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

They closing schools (that re-opened) in my state – - – because they have had outbreaks with multiple cases in the schools.

So. . . . no!

JLeslie's avatar

I think parents who don’t want to put their kids back in school shouldn’t. Just do homeschool. I think some of the reactions are overblown, because no one is forcing children into in-person schools. Many school systems have an online option, or there is classic homeschooling also.

I think schools should take precautions, we should not just let kids flood back into crowded schools. It is not overblown to want a plan in place to prevent the spread of covid in schools. Israel had to close schools back down because of large outbreaks, I know some schools in America have opened and then closed again.

From what I have read, the countries doing the best with schools have the children staying mainly with their class, so maybe 30 kids, and not interacting with other children in the school. Although, I was watching Japanese TV, and it looked like those kids were free to interact, but covid is very few cases in the country overall. That brings me to another point, if the local area has a lot of cases, then schools should not be open.

The best way to open schools is for everyone to mask up and distance and get the caseload down in the country so things can go back to a more normal situation. Even then the schools need to take some measures for safety.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie if you have a room full of people with masks on for a prolonged period of time, they’re going to get sick. It’s airborne… masks absolutely help prevent droplet spread, but if you’re sharing the same air without special ventilation, people will still get sick.


JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws Countries are doing it. We need to find best practices. Parents work, they need a place for their kids if they don’t work from home. It is either going to be a family member, a neighbor, a daycare, or a school.

I thought they still believe there is very little airborne particles and it is mostly in droplets. We have people working in stores and hospitals this whole time, and I know there has been transmission in those places, but you would think the transmission would be much higher if it was truly airborne like measles. I don’t question that covid is very contagious, but I don’t know how much it is wafting through the air systems and infecting others.

I think people know if one child has covid he might infect half the class. I am just talking about it being limited to that class and not spreading to other parts of the school.

Caravanfan's avatar

Let’s say you have a teacher teaching a class of 15 people. Let’s say she has 6 classes a day. Let’s also say that she’s 55 years old and has diabetes and is overweight.

Let’s do some math:
15 X 6 X 7 X 20 (assuming a 20 week school year)
That’s over 12,000 separate exposures. And that’s not even assuming the students change.

You can mask all you want, but the teacher is at very high risk.

Strauss's avatar

My grandson’s school started this year (August) in full remote mode. They had planned on going to two days a week in person, but they quickly discovered how difficult it is to keep a class of kindergartners socially distant and mask compliant.

JLeslie's avatar

@Caravanfan If you are talking to me (I’m pretty sure you are talking to everyone) I’m just talking about a class of 30, I assume you are talking about upper grades and college. I think they should have some sort of hybrid school to reduce exposure and teachers given lots of protection if they do in-class. Maybe very distanced from the first row. Maybe be able to teach from behind plexi. Maybe older teachers do the online teaching.

Older children can be home alone. What about the 5–10 year olds? If their parents work they have to go somewhere. I was a latchkey kid, I guess even 8 years old can be home alone, but all day for many months? Not a good idea. My sister hated being home without my mom when she was 7–8-9 years old.

@Strauss If kids miss kindergarten it’s no big deal. We have many generations of people who didn’t go to kindergarten. I’m actually ok with kids “missing“ a year any grade as long as they are doing something to keep them moving somewhat forward in learning and retaining what they know.

Some kids are actually doing better at home.

Strauss's avatar

@JLeslie To clarify my previous post: The charter school staff and administration realized that keeping children compliant and masked was like herding cats, so the decision was made to continue in remote learning mode until the end of the semester in December.

JLeslie's avatar

Why do people think it will be better in December?

Kindergarten kids doing at home learning is hit and miss at best. Not that I think it’s a big deal, I don’t.

kritiper's avatar

Absolutely not!!! If the schools were fully reopened it wouldn’t be long before everyone was sick.

Strauss's avatar

@JLeslie Why do people think it will be better in December?

December is when the semester ends and the remote learning model can be reevaluated at that time.

JLeslie's avatar

@Strauss December is when a whole bunch of people threw caution to the wind and traveled and saw family members they haven’t seen for 6 months. That’s what I predict anyway.

jca2's avatar

I have friends that are doing Christmas and Thanksgiving as usual.

I have friends whose children are in schools that are 100% remote now and they’re upset that the kids need socialization, are not learning, etc. They’re in a huge district with thousands of kids.

Our school is 60/40 remote/in- school and that’s ok with me. My daughter would love it if she were home 100% of the time but I think it’s good for her to be in school a few days a week. We’re in a small, intimate district so the kids can go to school and social distance.

There was a positive case in our school two weeks ago, on a Friday, and so they shut the school early and everyone went home. The school was closed all last week. My daughter hadn’t been in the building for a week when they announced the positive case so I wasn’t concerned that she was exposed.

Caravanfan's avatar

No @JLeslie I wasn’t talking to you specifically. I have several friends who are teachers, one with chronic medical problems (including a liver transplant) and he is terrified.

jca2's avatar

@JLeslie: Now, leaving a 7 or 8 year old home alone all day would be a CPS report, at least in the County I work in.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 Back when I was a kid there was a rule or law about it too. I think it was ok, or people looked the other way when it was just a few hours after school. In Maryland I think the cut off age was 14 by law to be left alone overnight.

@Caravanfan Yes, I think for teachers who are very high risk, or simply don’t want to do in-person teaching because they are afraid, they should be accommodated or given leave with a guaranteed job back or something. It needs to be addressed.

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