It’s time to carefully reopen schools

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

A recent Gallup poll shows what parents already know: the COVID-19 shutdown is seriously affecting our children’s mental and emotional health, which will ultimately impact their education. I strongly advocate for the continued work toward the safe reopening of our schools.

Gallup’s report is sobering:  “Nearly three in 10 (29%) say their child is "already experiencing harm" to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. Another 14% indicate their children are approaching their limits, saying they could continue social distancing a few more weeks until their mental health suffers. While children make up relatively few cases among confirmed COVID-19 patients in the U.S., these survey results suggest that pandemic response measures are taking a toll on the wellbeing of some.”

The California Department of Public Health reports that for children, ages 0 to 17, there no deaths in California due to COVID-19. Among all COVID deaths in California, 6.5 percent are between 18 and 49.

Dr. Scott Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, in an interview this week said that the risk to children from coronavirus is less than the risk from the flu.

"I'm not sure how many times it has to be said, but the risk of children from this disease and the fatality is nearly zero," Atlas said. "The risk of children for a significant illness is far less from the seasonal flu. This is totally antithetical to the data."

A senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Dr. Atlas, added, "Obviously, we know this by now, it’s been confirmed all over the world, children rarely transmit the disease to adults," said Atlas, "but those are people that obviously either don't know that data or have a refractory to learning themselves because the facts say otherwise."

A new study at the University Hospital of Dresden in Germany backs up Atlas. 

Reuters reports that the largest study conducted in Germany on school children and teachers included testing in schools where there were coronavirus outbreaks. Of the almost 2,000 samples, only 12 had antibodies, said Reinhard Berner from the University Hospital of Dresden. He added the first results gave no evidence that school children play a role in spreading the virus particularly quickly. "Children may even act as a brake on infection," Berner told a news conference.

With all we’ve learned in the past several months about face coverings, washing hands and social distancing, I am confident that we should be able to bring these precautionary measures into schools. And for families who adamantly support distance learning, districts are making available alternative learning options to address all student needs.

This week, the Snowline Joint Unified School District board agreed to return to a traditional learning environment for students five days a week. I believe this was welcome news for our students — many who want to see their peers and teachers — and for parents, who face the critical need to return to the workforce in order to make a living. Yet, in the wake of these important decisions being made at the local level and the start of the school year looming just weeks away, the state stepped in today and directed that schools will not be able to reopen if their county is on the state’s current monitoring list. Students’ hopes dashed and parents and educators forced to change course and adapt to the ever-moving goal line.

The data is crucial. In fact, it is what should drive the decision-making process. We must follow the science, flatten the fear and explore all options to bring about best outcomes for a swift recovery.