Don’t Close the Schools

Whether to reopen schools in September has become a controversy, with the increasingly fatuous Dr. Fauci cautioning against it. My friend Hans Bader was on this early:

[I]t is now clear that most schools do not need to remain closed to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Doing so will not save lives in the long run. So states should reopen their schools, starting with elementary schools.

In calling for school closures, I wanted to keep children from contracting the coronavirus in school and then giving it to their grandparents, who could die from it, in an overwhelmed hospital. But experts have thus far failed to find a single case of a child giving the virus to an adult. Although such cases almost certainly do exist, they aren’t a significant fraction of COVID-19 cases. And children do not transmit the virus to other children at high rates.

Links in the original. Happily, children seem to be barely affected by the Wuhan virus. We have already closed schools for the last three months of the current school year, to the disadvantage, mostly, of kids who are disadvantaged already and can’t learn well from home. But not to the disadvantage of teachers and educational bureaucracies, as Hans points out:

Yet, even as schools closed, states continued to spend money on the salaries of teachers and school officials and continued to receive federal tax dollars to operate their educational systems.

It is debatable whether closure of schools from March through May made any sense, but that is water over the dam. I find it verging on the insane that some are talking about closing schools for the next school year. The Washington Examiner editorializes: “Keeping schools closed in the fall is not a viable option.”

If the response to the coronavirus is to keep schools closed going into another academic year, then the response should be viewed as an unmitigated failure.
…Keeping schools closed means that children suffer physically, emotionally, socially, and academically. It places an extraordinary burden on parents who have to figure out a way to balance homeschooling with work. And it exacerbates the achievement gap, as wealthy two-parent families with the ability to work remotely and technological resources to participate in distance learning are at an even more significant advantage over single parents in jobs that do not allow them to do remote work. There is also no feasible plan to reopen the economy that does not first reopen schools.

From any perspective, the idea of closing schools for another school year, or major portion thereof, is bonkers. But there is another level of craziness: what makes the alarmists think that 2020-21 is the only school year that needs to be shut down? At the present rate, it will be years before the Wuhan virus works its way through the American population. In all probability, it will still be present and active in September 2021, and it probably will still be a threat in September 2022, and perhaps for years thereafter. Kids still won’t be getting sick, but when will the hypothetical possibility of children infecting their grandparents ever go away? And if we assume that the schools must be open by September 2021, why doesn’t the exact same assumption apply to September 2020?

If you live in an area where this subject is up for debate, you should come down hard on the side of re-opening the schools.