• Nathan Max

Keep the Schools Closed


Photo credit: Twitter. High School students packed a hallway Monday on the first day of class in Georgia.

It’s as if Donald Trump and his Republican allies are incapable of learning from their mistakes.


Two months after the president and his minions created a huge spike in COVID-19 infections by reopening society prematurely, Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican governors are now pushing to fully reopen schools.


The idea is madness. Nearly 160,000 Americans have already died, and this policy will create even more tragedy, as students fall ill and spread the virus to their parents, grandparents and other relatives. This is to say nothing of the danger to teachers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers and their families. How many more people have to perish?


It would be one thing if there was some kind of plan to keep children and adults safe. But there clearly isn’t, as DeVos demonstrated to the nation in her disturbing television appearance on CNN a couple weeks ago. Cross your fingers and hope all goes well is not an acceptable course of action when life-and-death matters are involved.


Common sense, logic and reason have prevailed in some of the nation’s largest school districts. The city of Chicago announced today that it would not have in-person classes this fall, joining school districts in Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Diego.


But, as usual, states run by Republicans are doing what Trump wants, whether it’s in the public interest or not. Florida and Arizona, two of the hardest hit states this summer, both plan to send its children back to school.


In order for this to have any chance of working, students would have to wear masks, physically distance and be disciplined about it. Newsflash: Children frequently don’t do as they are told and generally fail to follow instructions in large numbers.


Furthermore, many schools are overcrowded and have tightly packed halls, where kids are crammed together as they try to get from one class to the next.


In the best of times, educational settings are petri dishes of diseases every school year. When one kid gets the flu, dozens get the flu. The same thing will happen with coronavirus, with the added problem that many children will show up to class asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Testing could help, in theory, but tests are ineffective when you get the results a week later.


There is even a real-world example of what will likely happen. In Israel, where it appeared the country had gotten the virus under control, schools reopened in May. It went horribly awry. A massive outbreak occurred almost immediately, a warning for what could and likely will happen here.


The difference between the United States in August and Israel in May is that, unlike over there, we don’t have the virus under control. Not even close. That means we can expect our impending outbreak to be even worse.


Many colleges and universities have rightly canceled on-campus classes and are planning to go with either a hybrid or all-online model this fall. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than creating a situation in which thousands fall ill.


Some schoolchildren are going to fall behind. So be it. Given the choice between needing to play catch-up with our kids’ education and killing them off, most parents would chose keeping their children alive and healthy.


It should also be noted that the private school Barron Trump attends in suburban Maryland will not be offering in-person classes this fall. When it’s safe enough for the president’s son to attend school in person, then and only then should it be safe for the rest of the nation’s children.


Until that time, keep the kids home.

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