The Science Says – Send the Kids Back to School | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Science Says – Send the Kids Back to School

The WasteWatcher

One of the hottest debates in the country right now is whether children should be going back to school.  School districts across the country are making decisions on whether to continue to educate children virtually or allow them to return physically to the classroom.  The science shows returning to their classrooms is doable.  The health and education consequences show it is necessary.

The Mayo Clinic writes that most children, which become sick with COVID-19, do not become as sick as adults and death is very rare.  This is true in the United States and around the world.  Based on the science, it is atypical for children to have a problem with the COVID-19.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children are at far more risk battling influenza.  The agency reported that preliminary numbers for influenza in 2018-2019 show that more than an estimated 46,340 hospitalizations occurred for children under age 18.  For children four years and younger, there were an estimated 266 deaths and children 5 through 17, there were an estimated 211 deaths.

For COVID-19, the CDC has reported hospitalizations rates from March 7 to July 18 2020 of 205 COVID cases for children under four years old and 279 cases for those age five to 17, for a total of 484 hospitalizations.  For COVID-19, CDC has reported in the U.S. since February to mid-July there has been eight deaths for children age one to four years, 14 deaths for children age five to 14, and 157 deaths for those aged 15 to 24.  While every life is precious and every death tragic, COVID-19 does not present the same risk as the flu.  In 2019, according to a survey by CNN, school districts in 12 states closed school for a day or more because of the flu. This is certainly not to the magnitude being planned for COVID-19.  (According to CNN, no government agency counts school districts that close due to flu complications.)

On July 10, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated, “educators and pediatricians share the goal of children returning safely to school this fall.  Our organizations are committed to doing everything we can so that all students have the opportunity to safely resume in-person learning.”  The organization reminds us that school is more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic, but that, “They also learn social and emotional skills at school, get healthy meals and exercise, mental health support and other services that cannot be easily replicated online.  Schools also play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity.  Our nation’s response to COVID-19 has laid bare inequities and consequences for children that must be addressed.  This pandemic is especially hard on families who rely on school lunches, have children with disabilities, or lack access to Internet or health care.” 

AAP pushes for local school districts that “science should drive decision-making on safely reopening schools” and that “public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics.”  The AAP offers guidelines to open schools safely for in person learning.

The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced on July 15 that schools should “prioritize reopening in Fall 2020, especially for Grades K-5, while weighing risks and benefits.”  They note while it is not possible to entirely eliminate the risk of COVID-19, “young children in particular will be impacted by not having in-person learning and may suffer long-term academic consequences if they fall behind as a result.  In grades K-3, children are still developing the skills to regulate their own behavior, emotions, and attention, and therefore struggle with distance learning.”  Just as the AAP offer guidance to open safely, so does the National Academies offer a publication to assist teachers and parents reopening their schools .

A Finnish-Swedish study showed that there was no significant difference of infection between their two countries although they handled school attendance differently.  Sweden did not shut down their schools, or have a hard lockdown, and kept most schools and businesses open.  Finland did close their schools temporarily.  The study found that from February 24 to June 14, there were 1,124 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sweden, and 584 cases in Finland.  In both countries children between ages 1 to 19 were about 0.05 percent of the total number of COVID-19 cases.

Reuters reported on a German study released on July 13, which found that the infection rate in schools was low.  Germany began to reopen schools in May and the study looked at samples from 1,500 children and 500 teachers in the German state of Saxony during the months of May and June, where there were outbreaks of COVID-19.  Of the 2000 samples, only 12 had antibodies, indicating children do not play a role in spreading the virus.  The researcher, Reidhard Berner from the University of Hospital of Dresden, believes that the children may even act as “a break on infection.”  As a result of the study, Saxony’s education Minister has decided that schools will reopen as usual the end of August.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Editorial Board wrote on July 13 that, “Everything else about the coronavirus has become politicized in America, so why not a return to school as well?  That’s the depressing state of play as President Trump pushes schools to reopen while Democrats heed teachers’ unions that demand more federal money and even then may not return.  The losers, as ever, would be the children.”

This would be particularly true for children of moderate to low-income parents who could not afford to send their children to a private school.

The WSJ argues that school districts could manage to open the schools safely, just as other businesses have adjusted to operate safely.  They write, “Keeping schools closed while awaiting a vaccine isn’t an acceptable alternative. You don’t need a degree in child psychology to know kids have struggled with virtual education.  A Reuters analysis last month found that fewer than half of 57 public school districts were taking attendance.  About a third weren’t providing required services to special-needs students.”

Schools need to be creative.  For example, one suggestion offered during a debate on the issue was students could return to the classroom and teachers in a high-risk category could teach from home while students watched on a screen using much of the same technology they are using now.  Recently graduated teachers or student teachers in their senior year of college, which are also in the low risk category from COVID-19, could supervise two or three classrooms that had virtual at-risk teachers.

The Journal reminds us that millions of parents will not be able to return to work if their children cannot attend schools and state, “opening the schools is essential to the well-being of students, and teachers and administrators have a duty to make it happen.”

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