News & Politics

School Districts Decisions to Reopen Based on Politics, Not Science

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Orange County schools will reopen in the fall and kids won’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing, the school board says.

The Hill:

In a 4-1 vote, the board approved recommendations that include frequent hand-washing, daily temperature checks and nightly disinfection of facilities and vehicles, but did not include mandatory masks for students, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“K-12 children represent the lowest-risk cohort for Covid-19. Because of that fact, social distancing of children and reduced census classrooms is not necessary and therefore not recommended,” the board’s recommendations reads. “Requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult —if not impossible to implement — but not based on science. It may even be harmful and is therefore not recommended.”

Meanwhile, the San Diego and LA County schools will remain closed and the kids will be learning online.

Unfortunately, much of the research is incomplete and many of the guidelines are vague and contradictory. One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.

Therefore, we are announcing that the new school year will start online only. Instruction will resume on Aug.18 in Los Angeles Unified and Aug. 31 in San Diego Unified, as previously scheduled. Both districts will continue planning for a return to in-person learning during the 2020-21 academic year, as soon as public health conditions allow.

Some studies show that kids K-12 aren’t at risk of getting seriously ill and a few studies question whether children under 10 can even spread the coronavirus.

Other studies prove less conclusive but suggest that kids see the same risks of illness as adults.

So, naturally, when it comes to the fateful decision of reopening schools, school districts are using “science” to justify opening or keeping the schools shuttered and the kids learning online.

How can that be possible? The easy answer is politics. Again:

Unfortunately, much of the research is incomplete and many of the guidelines are vague and contradictory. One fact is clear: those countries that have managed to safely reopen schools have done so with declining infection rates and on-demand testing available. California has neither. The skyrocketing infection rates of the past few weeks make it clear the pandemic is not under control.

Liberal Los Angeles will be closed, conservative Orange County will open. Is one or the other school board full of idiots or are both school boards acting in good faith as they see the situation?

You can’t base the decision to reopen schools on “science.” But perhaps we could learn some lessons from other countries that have reopened their schools.

Things did not work out very well for Israel in this regard.

Daily Beast:

The month of June, which began exactly two weeks after Israel’s school system was suddenly and shambolically reopened, “caused the second wave,” Khatib says. “Whatever else we say, the fact is that schools were not prepared to take students back under the necessary conditions to contain the epidemic.”

“The reopening happened too fast. It was undertaken so quickly that it triggered a very sharp spike, and the return to more conservative measures came too little, much too late,” Khatib says, summing up Israel’s dilemma.

Israel is seeing a huge increase in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. On the day that schools opened, there were only 10 positive tests in the entire nation. On Tuesday, that number was 1,681. And there appears to be an inescapable correlation between the schools reopening and the second wave of the outbreak.

The answer probably lies somewhere between the approaches taken by LA and Orange County schools. A more cautious approach at first might be better than trying to rush back to normalcy. The point being, the schools are going to have to open at some point — even when the virus appears to be contained, there are going to be risks. Helicopter parents might feel justified in keeping their kids home, but most parents know what’s best for their children and will act accordingly.

Trusting people to do what’s in their best interests is always better than trying to dictate from on high and ordering people around like sheep.

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