When and how do schools reopen?

In a recent interview with NPR, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) highlighted his proposals for schools to reopen for the Fall 2020 semester (https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/10/853496087/sen-bill-cassidy-on-reopening-schools-children-are-paying-a-high-price-at-home?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=nprblogscoronavirusliveupdates). Sen. Cassidy is a medical doctor and a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee will be holding hearings with public health officials this week to help determine how to reopen schools and businesses safely.

Two major aspects of his proposal include testing and contact tracing. Sen. Cassidy said, "Children are at low risk for complications and high risk for asymptomatically carrying the disease and spreading it to teachers. So there has to be what I call an 'if-and-then-but' strategy. If they're a child, then they are likely safe. But if they get infected, they can still infect the teacher." While this may look like a logistical nightmare, it is possible if coordinated well.

Sen. Cassidy has a larger concern than the possible spread of COVID-19 in schools though: "Children, they are paying the highest price relative to their risk of having a complication from coronavirus. The highest price. Particularly kids from disadvantaged backgrounds for whom that enriched environment is important. Particularly kids from potentially abusive households where teachers are often those that report abuse. I could go down the list. So we have to find a way to match our testing capacity, which is adequate for this, with where people are beginning to congregate once more. Both to screen those who are positive, but to protect those who are negative."

Speaking from experience, the past few months have been trying. Figuring out what to prioritize and how to implement it has required a lot of trial and error. Supporting parents and students while trying to recreate what we do in the classroom has been tough to balance. Making sure students get online, complete their work, and understand it is a daily struggle. All that being said, I'm grateful for how well things have gone considering the circumstances. We are blessed to have supportive parents and the resources to provide families with computers if needed. Many public schools have moved to pass/fail because they can't guarantee that everyone can get on. While lunch programs have still provided food to qualifying families, Sen. Cassidy's concerns are very valid. How many students out there are missing out on their education and how many others are receiving subpar educations because of the limitations of the mediums available? How many students are suffering through poverty or abuse and don't have an advocate or a safe place anymore? Hopefully these hearings will help move the country forward as we try to establish a new normal.

Image Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP

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