This past spring, while COVID-19 ripped through mostly Democratic states like New York, Washington, and New Jersey, the American South had yet to feel its full brunt.
Later that season, though, into the summer, everything began to change.
Now, as New York boasts record decline in infections and hospitalizations, and the country struggles with hasty re-opening, the virus has made its way south and west.
One of the persistent questions states are currently grappling with is the issue of school re-opening.
Many school districts are opting to conduct classes entirely online.
Some are adopting a hybrid–part-time in-person, part-time online–format.
But if we want to gauge how re-opening schools will proceed, we should look to those who have already begun.
So far, it isn’t pretty.
Since August 7, Kansas high school teacher Alisha Morris has tracked 700 schools reporting recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
Morris told The Washington Post:
“We knew this would happen, and we had tried to make it known that it would happen, but seeing it on paper was, I think, the eye-opening part about it. It’s just that terrifying moment when you open it up and just keeps scrolling and you’re like: ‘How can there be so many?’”
On Sunday, the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill announced it would be cancelling all in-person instruction after four COVID outbreaks occurred over three days in dorms, apartments, and a fraternity house, resulting in 177 students contracting the disease.
Michigan State is cancelling as well.
Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame announced it too was cancelling face-to-face instruction for at least two weeks.
Three teachers and 95 students from South Fork High School in Florida have been quarantined.
Officials from Martin County, Fla. Public Schools have quarantined 292 students and 16 employees.
A student at Westmoore High School in Oklahoma reported to school after testing positive but was asymptomatic, leading to quarantine 22 students who came into contact with the infected student (whose name has not been revealed) and one other who tested positive.
J. O. Combs Unified School District in Arizona did not proceed with its planned opening after an “overwhelming response” from staff who refused to show up.
At least a dozen University of Mississippi athletes tested positive.
In a July 1 email to students, Yale University administrator Laurie Santos stated:
“We all should be emotionally prepared for widespread infections—and possibly deaths—in our communities. [Students] should emotionally prepare for the fact that your residential college life will look more like a hospital unit than a residential college.”
According to Davidson’s College Crisis Initiative, 35% of American colleges have in-person learning plans in place. Many of those schools, as Business Insider reported, are re-opening with an “asterisk,” explaining:
“Leaders at universities such as Syracuse, Cornell, and Texas A&M are deciding how many on-campus coronavirus cases would shut them down again. Specifics for those plans, for the most part, are under wraps.“
College Crisis Initiative policy analyst Luis Toledo told The Wall Street Journal:
“If you release [that plan] and acknowledge there is a possibility of students dying, it begs the question: Why are you bringing students back in the first place?”
But if American cases aren’t convincing enough, despite the United States reporting the highest percentage of COVID-19 infections in the world, let’s look to other countries as evidence of the disaster re-opening can cause.
On May 17, Israel appeared to have defeated the virus after several weeks in which first-, second-, and third-grade students returned to classrooms.
So the Israeli government, despite advice from Hagai Levine, Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem epidemiologist and chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, decided to bring everyone back.
Two weeks later, more than 244 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the education ministry, 2,026 students, teachers, and staff are infected, and 28,147 were quarantined a month ago.
Spain recorded Europe’s highest two-week infection rate–66,905 confirmed cases in the past two weeks.
School authorities in Berlin, Germany report hundreds of students and teachers have had to quarantine.
France has recorded the highest increase in cases since the end of its lockdown in May.
Last month, Democratic nominee Joe Biden released a five-point plan for school re-opening that includes:
- Implementing nationwide testing and strengthening supply chains to control the virus.
- Setting national safety guidelines and empowering local decision making.
- Providing emergency funding for schools and child-care providers.
- Ensuring high-quality learning during the pandemic.
- Proposing a White House initiative for solutions to close the racial and socioeconomic educational equity gap.
So, are you sending your kids back to school?
Have you already done so?
Image credit: citizentruth.org