For much of the country, schools are set to open next month. You may have seen the calls from the current occupant of the White House demanding that “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” For this republican administration, how they are approaching this issue — like so many other things surrounding the coronavirus — has less to do with the goal of following the science around this virus in order to keep kids, teachers, and families safe, and everything to do with the goal of scoring political points in an attempt to get to stay in power after the elections this November. The CDC has released guidelines to to follow for schools wishing to reopen, but trump had called them “very impractical,” and Pence has said the CDC will be issuing new guidelines next week, because he said, “We just don’t want the guidelines to be too tough.” In addition, Betsy DeVos just said that the trump administration will be “very seriously” looking at the idea of withholding federal funds from schools who don’t reopen in order to apply added pressure to school districts.
I have THREE KIDS, y’all. Please believe me when I say that I would rather have them in school than staying at home. But this is not going to work… Here are 10 reasons why:
1. BUSSES. When my kids ride the bus, it is not uncommon for most of the seats on that bus to have three kids to a seat. HAVE YOU EVER SHARED A BUS SEAT WITH TWO OTHER PEOPLE?!? You’re so close to people you can feel their stomach rumble with your elbow. Those kids are on top of each other. And the only one there to enforce the mask policy is looking at the road. You could try to buy more busses or stagger the pick up times to spread the kids out… But many districts already have a hard time finding bus drivers (they can use that same license to drive a truck and make WAY more money)… How much harder is is going to be to fill these positions when you are carrying 50+ kids who could easily get you sick? Twice a day, busses will be a COVID transmission paradise.
2. IDIOTS RAISE IDIOT KIDS. And as we have seen over the past few months, America has TONS of idiots. What happens when the knuckleheads who are on video every day in Kroger talking about how masks are “killing us by making us breathe carbon dioxide” send their little knucklehead kids to school and tell them that it’s all a “hoax”? On a daily basis, we see grown adults acting like school kids and literally coughing on people who tell them to put a mask on… How much more of this kind of behavior are we going to see from ACTUAL SCHOOL KIDS?
3. LUNCH. Have any of you actually eaten lunch with a class of middle schoolers before? I have. Many times. The last time was four months ago, and I STILL feel I haven’t gotten all the germs off me. I mean, all schools are dirty. Have you ever seen how much kindergarteners pick their noses and eat their boogers? I’m surprised some of those kids still have an appetite by lunch. But lunch is a shit show. And you can’t wear a mask while you’re eating. Kids are going to be trading food, making each other laugh, having milk come out their noses… Lunch was a Petri dish BEFORE coronavirus. Yikes. Speaking of which…
4. SCHOOL BUILDINGS. The physical space of so many schools is not designed to be able to keep kids safely distanced. Many don’t have a dedicated area for a nurse. Many don’t have adequate (or sometimes even functioning) ventilation… all while the World Health Organization confirms that there is new evidence emerging showing the virus is not only spread on respiratory droplets (that drop within 6 feet), but might also be airborne and transmission can happen because of poor ventilation. And what about portables? VENTILATION?!? Those things have an A/C unit and a door.
5. SICK LEAVE AND SUBS. What happens when a teacher gets sick? What if they get a cold, and they are coughing? What happens when they run out of sick leave, and they feel like they might have a fever… Take some ibuprofen and suck it up? And THEN, when they are sick, how in the world are you going to convince subs to go into classrooms where the teacher called out because he is at home with a fever? Risk your life for $13 an hour?? And when they can’t get subs, do you know what they do? That’s right — They crowd that class in with other crowded classes. What a mess…
6. BOOKS. This seems like a small thing, but schools don’t have enough books for every kids to have their own. And they’re not going to by the time schools are supposed to start next month either. So if kids are staying with the same teacher all day and not switching classrooms, how are the kids going to get the books? Are they going to be disinfected and carted to the next classroom?
7. TESTING AND PPE. What about on site testing (the medical kind)… Are schools going to be able to test kids? They are going to have to test people more than just once. What happens when a kid in a class tests positive… Does the rest of the class quarantine for two weeks? Do they all get tested? There are about 50.8 million kids going to public school in America… Are they going to have masks for the kids to wear? How many masks do they need for that many kids for 200 days of school? Teachers are already buying pencils & tissues & supplies with their own money because schools won’t provide them… And THOSE things are easy to come by.
8. PROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAMS. Every major league is struggling with outbreaks. If they can’t keep their multi-million dollar investments from catching this, do you really think underfunded schools are going to be able to keep this from spreading? Give me a break… This tweet gets it right:
9. CONSOLIDATION OF PEOPLE WHO DON’T TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. Some school systems are trying to offer options — where some families would choose to send their kids in to school, while others opt for distance learning… But the ability to keep your kids home is privilege. What about single parents who work? If parents who are informed about the actual risks involved in this are keeping their kids home, you ensure that the ones who choose to have their kids attend classes in person are either those who have no other option, or those who do not think this virus is a very big deal. People who have no other option are way more likely to send their kid in when they “aren’t feeling great,” and people who are not taking this seriously are probably engaging in risky behavior and way more likely to have kids who have this virus.
10. THIS IS GOING TO KILL A LOT OF PEOPLE. Yes, we know that the majority of the people who die from this are older. And sure, it’s good news that the virus is far less deadly in kids ages 5-17, but that won’t be very comforting to you if YOUR kid is one of the ones who dies. Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah… but kids sometimes die from the flu too, and we don’t shut down schools for that.” First of all, we sure TF do! They shut down districts for flu outbreaks all the time. Secondly, while it’s true that kids sometimes die from the flu, COVID-19 is much more deadly for kids. In this study of 582 COVID-19 positive kids in Europe, only 4 of the kids died, putting the Case Fatality Rate at 0.69% (though the researchers wrote that the actual CFR probably much lower, because 16% of the kids in the study never showed any symptoms, and only got tested because of contact with others… so it stands to reason that there are many others who have it with no symptom, making it even less deadly). But more than HALF were admitted to the hospital, and 8% required intensive care. In this study from Rutgers following 48 kids admitted to ICUs (which included ages 0 – 21), it found that more than 20% of patients experience failure of two or more organ systems. Nearly 40% required a breathing tube and a ventilator. Two kids died, and at the end of the follow-up period 33% were still hospitalized, three were still on a ventilator, and one was on life support. THIS VIRUS IS FAR FROM HARMLESS TO KIDS.
Again, about 50.8 million kids attend America’s k-12 public schools. How many of those kids do you think will get this disease? How many will end up in the hospital? How many will end up in the ICU? How many will end up with organ failure? How many will end up on a ventilator or on life support? “Co-infection” with another virus like influenza makes this even MORE deadly… What happens during flu season in a few months? How many dead kids is an acceptable number to sacrifice for opening schools while this virus is nowhere NEAR under control?
Now think of how many TENS OF THOUSANDS of teachers and staff are at those schools who are in their 50s and 60s, or whose pre-existing conditions put them at high risk. Jesus…
Rather than basing their decision on science, this inept administration is basing it on their desire to get reelected. And when the CDC says “This is what needs to happen,” Pence says, “We don’t want the guidance from the CDC to be the reason schools don’t open up.” As if schools don’t WANT to open. It’s not like school districts are saying, “You know what? We’d rather not do school anymore.” This isn’t out of some place of “laziness.” If it was safe, teachers would rather be in the classrooms. It’s what they know. If schools cannot reopen safely, there is ONE PLACE to apply blame… And it’s NOT the school systems.
Imagine if — for YEARS — experts warned of the dangers fires pose to a town… But instead, the town’s administration refused to put in fire hydrants & prepare fire departments & require extinguishers in buildings. When fires started becoming a problem in surrounding communities, the experts were again ignored as they warned leaders that those fires would spread to the town. Then, just as the experts said, the lack of preparation decimated huge parts of the town… NOW imagine that the administration — while the situation is still very dangerous, embers are still smoldering, and buildings are still on fire — had the AUDACITY to blame schools for not opening in dangerous areas, apply pressure for them to reopen, or even demonize the school district for making a decision designed to keep kids, teachers, and staff from getting hurt. This is where we are as a country. This is NOT the schools’ fault. This is the fault of the administration who thought that didn’t trust the experts, and told the citizens that fire hydrants were a hoax.
In January, February, & the first half of March, the international medical community warned us about how serious this was, and the only thing these ding dongs did was assure us of how great a job they were doing. After refusing to take it seriously, most of the nation shut down for TWO MONTHS… During which time the administration continued doing absolutely nothing other than pumping money into the economy to artificially prop up the stock market to keep the very rich VERY rich, and press for reopening churches & businesses before their states met benchmarks showing they had the virus under control. While leading the world in COVID19 deaths, they congratulated themselves on a “job well done” for “only” having 60,000 dead. We now have more than TWICE that, and as the virus comes roaring back in nearly every state, it’s like they are basically throwing their hands up and saying, “Screw it — The virus has won. Yeah, a bunch of people are going to die… But it’s mostly old people, and old people die all the time.” Look at this INSANE statistic (and understand that it is NOT a coincidence that 11 of those 13 states have republican governors):
And this isn’t even a “second wave.” This is still the first wave. Those months we shut down and stayed home and 42 million people lost their jobs were a complete waste, because we are basically starting over now… Except that now our situation is so much worse, because way more people have the virus, and because everyone is fatigued. People want to know when things will get back to normal. But the question is not “When will things get back to normal?” The question is “When will this country begin to take this seriously enough that ‘back to normal’ is even anywhere on the horizon?” It’s like having knee surgery, and having a doctor give you guidelines for when you can put some weight on it… When you can walk on it… When you can start to run — If you’re an idiot and you try to do things before you’re ready, you’re just going to end up in surgery again. And that’s where we are as a country: Back in surgery. When we try to “open things back up” before it is time, we only work to EXTEND the time we spend in recovery. The same goes for schools.
And I’d really like for my kids to get back to school as soon as possible.
Thank you so much for reading! I know this one was longer, but there was a lot of stuff to say. If you value my writing and the work I do, please consider BECOMING A PATRON. It feels good, and it really help me and my family. You can also LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL, or you can Venmo your generosity to “chris-boeskool” Also, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. I love you all! Don’t forget to breathe, look for reasons to laugh, & wear a freaking mask.
Chris – I have been amazed by the lack of coverage or general commentary on this topic. As back-to-school time gets closer, these issues are bound to start sinking in to those who have spent the past 4 months or so trying to do the right thing. One thing you didn’t mention directly is the threat that returning to school will pose to the parents and others in the households of the school kids. If my daughter is required to return to school a month from now, she and her fellow students and teachers will not be the only ones who will face all the exposure vectors you mentioned. Even if she is not likely to become seriously ill herself, she can still bring the same virus home that has caused serious illness and death to many people my age. I have not seen any evidence that kids cannot transmit the virus. I feel that this will make all the efforts to avoid the virus and to avoid spreading the virus since March meaningless. I will not be able to avoid daily exposure from someone who is too young to be expected to diligently practice all the safety protocols for 8 or 9 hours every day. She is also too young to quarantine alone if she is exposed or if she does test positive. With most schools starting back around the same time in August, I can only imagine how full the ER’s and ICU’s will be starting a week or two into September. It’s a helpless feeling.
For sure. Schools are a VERY important component of the economy, as well as a giant part of public health.
I think so many of us feel helpless right now… But we can still make our voices heard. We can march. We can make calls. We can band together and support unions. And we can use our voices to educate the folks in our lives to the problems at hand and the solutions that are better than the ones we are currently trying.
I’m a longtime reader/supporter and respect you a ton. I’m staunchly anti-Trump and I’m an educator at a high school in AZ with two kids of my own. That said, I don’t think it’s as simple you make it.
I’m sharing a Vox article below from a professor of epidemiology / infectious disease physician that essentially argues that we don’t know how risky opening schools would be, it could be okay, but we KNOW that time away from school is gonna be bad, so as long as there’s plans to monitor and close when needed it’s probably worth opening schools. You know Vox would never align with Trump if they could avoid it, and this guy has the smarts/data to back up the argument.
So…dude we don’t know. No one does. But I’m not just gonna default to disagreeing with Trump just because that’s what I always do. Opening schools could be the right way to eat this crap sandwich.
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