Friday, July 10, 2020

Back to school?

In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, much of the re-opening of public places has focused on whether or not to send kids back to school classrooms. Jim Geraghty of National Review lists the most important criteria to take into consideration.

  • The continued absence of in-person schooling is having bad effects — and in some cases, really bad effects — on our children and must end as soon as possible.
  • The danger of the coronavirus to children is less than the danger to adults, but that does not mean there is no danger; a small percentage of children develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Most have recovered, but not all.
  • Children can carry the virus and unknowingly spread it to any adults they encounter; schools employ quite a few adults — teachers, principals, administrative staff, janitors — some of whom are in high-risk categories.

Along those same lines, The American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly encouraging the idea that kids should be back in their classrooms and shares tips on how to do so safely.

But perhaps the group most eager to see kids back in school? Well if you believe a survey conducted by the Minnesota Dept. of Education, it's the parents.

Asked whether they “would feel comfortable sending your student(s) back to a classroom this fall,” 64 percent said yes, 11 percent said no and 24 percent were unsure.

Those reluctant to send their kids back to school said their main concern was public health. Daily cleaning was the most likely to make them feel more comfortable, along with small class sizes, daily health checks and a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Tim Walz ordered all public schools in the state to close in mid-March because of the pandemic. The 11 weeks of distance learning to end the 2019-20 school year went badly for 53 percent of respondents, the survey found.

The top three challenges they cited were a lack of student empowerment, mental health challenges related to the pandemic, and hard to understand lessons.

The survey, which yielded over 134,000 online responses between June 15 and July 6, will be used to inform a decision from state officials about whether schools can reopen and, if so, what precautions they should take. That decision is expected no later than the week of July 27.

This is providing quite the dilemma for Gov. Walz, as he just said the other day that he would have been more confident three weeks ago if asked about the prospects of opening schools than he is today. 

As an aside, it appears the Pioneer Press changed the headline of the initial posting of the story I linked to above. The current headline reads "Survey of MN parents: 11% not comfortable sending kids back to school, 24% unsure, 64% OK with it." But check out the URL to this piece:

Hat tip to my pal Ben Kruse of the Up and At 'em podcast for pointing this out to me. The initial headline suggests that the 35% of parents who did not say they are OK with sending their kids back to a classroom are all reluctant to do so. That is casting some serious projection on the 24% who replied "unsure." To me, a number of people answering "unsure" could likely be waiting for additional information, specifically protocols that would be put in place should schools open back up. But can that mindset be labeled as "reluctant?" That seems a bit of a stretch.

In the end, this all boils down to how much risk school districts want to assume. My wife has been a public school teacher for 26 years, and she can tell y'all first hand what a germ factory her school is even in non-pandemic times. To the degree coronavirus exacerbates that (given that kids are less susceptible but adults more so)  will be an interesting calculation.


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