I recently read The Gazette’s editorial “Closing schools does more harm than good,” and as the spouse of an elementary school teacher and the father of a second-grader, I wanted to share some thoughts. First, The Gazette is far from the only publication making this argument. In fact, we have editorialized about how important it is to get children (safely) back into classrooms.
But there’s some fuzzy logic here. The piece, published Sept. 1, says, “With rare exceptions, schools should not be closed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reports United States children comprise 0%-0.3% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 21 states reported zero child deaths. It means COVID-19 is among the lowest threats to children. The academy ‘strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.’”
So, children only come in contact with other children while at school? Places of learning operate in a vacuum?
Nope. There are myriad staff, support staff and educators wandering those same halls, breathing the same air in shared lunchrooms (you can’t eat through a mask) — and many of those adults with preexisting conditions are weighing the decision whether to retire early or roll the dice.
And those invincible kids are bringing everything shared at school to their homes. Anyone with kids in elementary school knows the first few months of class mean someone’s catching something.
But that’s OK. Families can just expect to remain 6 feet apart for the next 10 months, right?
And what about the extended family of those educators and support staff? My mother turns 75 in a few weeks. It’s a milestone birthday that should be celebrated with those who are closest to her. She won’t even get a hug from her grandson.
And the additional responsibility we are placing on already overworked and underpaid teachers? Colorado ranks among the lowest states for teacher compensation, and now we are telling them to act as health care providers, HAZMAT mitigators, day care workers, nurses, counselors, parental figures, security guards and… oh yeah — teachers.
The Gazette’s board is right. Sending kids home will impact the most vulnerable neighborhoods because of insufficient technology and investment.
But that’s not new to this pandemic. Those are issues that have been long ignored and are now very much in the public eye. But how government, both big and small, prioritizes education is perhaps for another day.
The Gazette is right. The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” But the editorial board must have missed this part of the AAP statement: “Unfortunately, in many parts of the United States, there is currently uncontrolled spread of SARS-CoV-2. Although the AAP strongly advocates for in-person learning for the coming school year, the current widespread circulation of the virus will not permit in-person learning to be safely accomplished in many jurisdictions.”
Or this: “More recent data suggest children older than 10 years may spread SARS-CoV-2 as efficiently as adults, and this information should be part of the considerations taken in determining how to safely and effectively open schools.”
But here we are — average families making life-and-death decisions by the day (and please don’t compare this to car accidents, this is different).
The saddest part: With even the smallest acts of social responsibility and strong, organized leadership, much of this predicament could likely have been avoided.
The Gazette is right. Most children seem to be relatively unaffected by the disease. But it’s wrong to assume that that’s where the story ends.