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EDITORIAL: Families need clarity on reopening schools sooner rather than later

It might be easier for parents to enjoy summer break if they knew it was ending.

The Clark County School District is scheduled to start classes in two months, but it’s unclear if the learning will take place in a classroom. In March, Gov. Steve Sisolak closed schools throughout the state in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

To say the abrupt transition to virtual learning had difficulties is putting it lightly. There were technical challenges to overcome, including a lack of access to computers or internet for some students. Each week, the district was unable to contact tens of thousands of students. Even if those issues are resolved, problems remain. It’s hard to get a 6-year-old to learn while staring at a computer screen all day. Many parents aren’t able to help their children with upper level math or English courses. Science classes often demand hands-on labs.

Many parents also count on students being at school while they work. The rise of telecommuting alleviates that stress for some, but not others, especially as casinos reopen.

But as the governor and others consider a course of action for August, it’s important to consider some emerging facts about the pandemic.

Children are extremely unlikely to die from the coronavirus. In the entire country, just 11 children, ages 5 to 14, have succumbed to COVID-19, according to CDC data. Among those aged 15 to 24, just 93 people have died from the virus. For context, it’s not unusual for flu deaths to break triple digits in a single winter. In addition, many studies are showing that infected children do not easily transmit the virus to others.

Data such as this has led many countries around the world to reopen their schools. Denmark started in-person classes on April 15. Among all age groups of schoolchildren, infections have decreased. Norway opened up schools on April 20. Things have gone so well that officials there say they won’t close down schools again even if there is a second wave of infections. There are similarly positive results from Germany, Finland and Australia.

By all means, Gov. Sisolak and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert must scrutinize the facts about the risks and rewards ofreopening Nevada schools. All parents want to feel confident that their children are safe when they send them off to class. The coronavirus has been challenging, in part, because so much about it is unknown.

But education officials know much more now than they did three months ago. At some point soon, they need to take what others have learned and come to a decision. More communication with parents throughout this process would help, too.

By the end of June, they need to tell families when students will be returning to classrooms.

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