School Reopening Debate Forgets 1000s of Businesses Never Closed

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Those debating whether or not it is possible to open schools safely should take a look at 1000s of businesses that have continued daily operations since COVID-19 started. Indeed, there are legitimate concerns about opening schools — pro and con.

When the country shut down in early 2020, stay-at-home orders went into effect, and schools closed across the United States. Both federal and local governments, at the time, agreed with the CDC recommendations. However, many parents complained — especially when their local education administration did not promptly offer options.

Worldwide, 1.9 billion youngsters had to stay home to combat the adverse effects of the novel coronavirus by April. As the shut down wore on, psychologists and educators began to express concern about the negative impact missing school “was doing more harm than good,” according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Children need to have in-person social interaction and stimulation. They need to experience milestones like birthdays and graduations. In June 2020, kids did not celebrate moving up to the next grade, which is especially crucial for kindergarteners going to 1st grade, 5th grade to middle school, and 8th grade to high school. Youth graduating 12th grade did have diploma ceremonies. Those planning to go on to college may not experience the entire social/education experience as their parents and grandparents.

Even though classrooms need to reopen, people cannot expect “things to return to normal.” Necessary adjustments must be made to ensure the safety of all involved, from the children to the janitors.

Reopening Schools Can Be Done; Look at Businesses’ Experiences

It can be done — reopening American schools. Other countries reopened in June. The AAAS reports:

When looking at reopening strategies from South Africa to Finland to Israel, some encouraging patterns emerged. Together, they suggest a combination of keeping student groups small and requiring masks and some social distancing helps keep schools and communities safe, and that younger children rarely spread the virus to one another or bring it home. But opening safely, experts agree, isn’t just about the adjustments a school makes. It’s also about how much virus is circulating in the community, which affects the likelihood that students and staff will bring COVID-19 into their classrooms.

Overcoming the fear of COVID-19 infections rising when children return to school may not be easily accomplished. In fact, with daily case numbers growing exponentially in the United States, it might not be possible at all. Nonetheless, if businesses who never closed managed to keep cases to a minimum, perhaps instead of feeling fear, people should readjust their thinking and proceed with caution.

The  USPS, Amazon distribution centers, manufacturing plants, grocery stores, banks, doctors’ offices, marijuana dispensaries, and more never closed shop in March. They made adjustments — all personnel wears masks, their temperatures are taken upon arrival, and social distancing is required.

For example:

  • Deliveries are made contactless.
  • Banks require appointments for customers who cannot be served using the drive-through or an ATM.
  • Doctors are seeing patients using Zoom, and if a patient needs to be seen, they are prescreened.

A couple of people working at a Portland factory explain their experience working during the pandemic. Many co-workers took time off to take care of their children or themselves if at risk, but those who stayed are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Their company provided them with washable masks, and the threat of termination explicitly follows that rule. However, when it comes to social distancing, there is a problem. Moving about the manufacturing floor, it is “darned impossible.” And, as for cases of COVID-19, there are few to date.

If it can be done in the workplace, it can be done in the schools. The debate should end because children need to be with other children just like adults need to be with other adults. Whether it is at the job or in the school, everyone involved will benefit.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

FOX Business News: Coronavirus has not closed these businesses: Banks, telecom providers stay open

CDC: The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall

The News York Times Magazine: Why Is There No Consensus About Reopening Schools?

American Association for the Advancement of Science: School openings across globe suggest ways to keep coronavirus at bay, despite outbreaks

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of David Seibold’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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