When can our Children Safely Return to School?

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Aug. 6 2020, Published 10:09 a.m. ET

Many school districts across the country have recently opened their doors to students. Our nation remains divided on the effectiveness of protective measures from COVID-19 and the overall severity of the disease, causing controversy over whether or not it is time to let children return to school.

On the very first day of school in Georgia’sCherokee County School district, a second grader at Sixes Elementarytested positive for the novel coronavirus. The school was forced to shut the classroom down for a deep cleaning and has asked the student’s classmates to quarantine for two weeks. 

The quarantine mandate for the children is a temporary solution at best. In states with high infection rates and disregard for safety measures, students will continue to test positive. When you pair grade school students, who couldn’t care less about social distancing, with a Georgia governor that can’t even wrap his head around the concept of a face mask, things aren’t going to end well.

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The city of Chicago has decided to take a different route, announcing that they will start off the school year with a fully remote learning system. The plan comes with its own boatload of concerns, with the most glaring being the fact that many students won’t really learn. From firsthand experience, I know for a fact an at-home learning experience doesn’t come close to the effectiveness of a more traditional learning experience. There are exceptions to the rule, but in a system with some of the poorest and most dangerous school districts in the country, online classes will take a backseat to the kids’ daily lives.

All eyes are now on Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education, the largest public school system in the country. The city feels optimistic about its chances of reopening schools with a hybrid learning model, a combination of remote and in-person learning. The official decision on reopening will be made later this summer.

Truthfully, there are no good options. Should officials open schools and risk the health of the children? Or, should school officials opt for remote learning and risk the quality of education until we have a vaccine? Of course, the decision should vary according to the infection rates in the school’s region. But in regions with relatively low infection rates, an attempt at a hybrid learning model should be made

Remote learning was intended to serve as a temporary fix to a growingly permanent issue. Now, it’s time to come up with a more permanent and sustainable fix. With proper precaution and in-depth planning, the establishment of a safe in-person learning environment could be possible in some schools.

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