Health experts are urging schools to reopen fully. Gov. Steve Sisolak and Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara aren’t listening.
“We need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday.
He’s not the only one. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health said, “It’s a failure that we haven’t prioritized opening schools.”
Children are orders of magnitude less likely to die from coronavirus than the elderly. Evidence suggests they are also less likely to be infected. When they are infected, they’re much more likely to have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
That’s only half the equation, of course. Even if children aren’t greatly affected by the virus, they could conceivably transmit it to their teachers and family members. That’s an understandable worry, but it’s almost never happening.
Children “don’t seem to pass it on to adults as effectively,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, a Canadian health official, said in late June. Citing research from the Netherlands, Henry said it was much more likely for an adult to infect a child than the other way around.
Case studies from around the country and the world are encouraging, too. Even during the lockdowns, the YMCA ran child care for 40,000 children at 1,100 locations. Some staff members and parents did test positive, but the YMCA didn’t see a cluster of cases at any site.
In Europe, “22 countries have reopened their schools and have seen no discernible increases in cases,” Sen. Rand Paul said on Tuesday. “Contact tracing studies in China, Iceland, Britain and the Netherlands failed to find a single case of child-to-adult infection.”
Aside from a vaccine for coronavirus, these findings and real-world experiences are the best-case scenario for reopening schools.
Yet, Sisolak has limited schools to reopening at 50 percent capacity. In response, Jara’s current plan is to split classes into two groups. Half will attend school on Monday and Tuesday. The other half will be present on Thursday and Friday. In theory, students will do online instruction for three days a week.
But as even Jara has acknowledged, the district’s attempt to do distance learning last spring was a disaster.
“Our kids didn’t learn. Let’s just be honest,” Jara said last month on a Clark County Education Association podcast. Our students’ educational achievement “gap — I believe — is bigger than it was before they left. And that’s a travesty.”
Jara said the district will provide more professional development to help teachers with the new arrangement. That sounds nice, but it’s naive to think it’s actually going to help. It’s hard to be a better teacher when you aren’t able to interact with your students.
Jara is right that Sisolak is restricting the district’s options. But Jara should be more proactive in demanding schools fully reopen. He could sue Sisolak for giving casinos more freedom to operate than schools. Or he could rally parents to pressure Sisolak to reopen schools. Instead, Jara has threatened that reductions to the district’s budget at the upcoming special session could result in an increase in distance education.
That would be a mistake. Implement safety precautions, such as temperature checks and limiting the interaction between classrooms. But, especially for elementary students, Nevada’s leaders need to ensure children return to school full-time in August.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.