Thinking Citizen Blog — Reopening of Schools (cont.): Agonizing decisions must be made, Second-guessing easy, Politicization ugly
Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — Reopening of Schools (continued): agonizing decisions must be made, second-guessing easy, politicization ugly
Experts disagree. But many an expert who has a strong opinion acts as if their voice is the voice of “science.” What is a non-expert to do? Is even thinking about it a poor use of time? Is this a case where ignorance is “rational”? Is it time for humility, skepticism, and prayer? Today, excerpts from three op-ed pieces recently published in the Boston Globe. The first, co-authored by 4 Harvard Professors of Public Health makes the case that science says reopen. The second, by five Massachusetts School Committee members argue that reopening would be premature. The third focuses on the need to reduce community-level risk before reopening. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
LISTEN TO THE SCIENCE AND REOPEN SCHOOLS — 4 Harvard Professors of Public Health
1. “Reopening schools should not be an us-versus-them argument. It’s not a Democratic vs. Republican argument. It’s about our children and about the evidence.”
2. “We should be following the science that says in-person schooling for our kids is too valuable to give up and that the risks of school-based transmission appear to below.”
3. “We should be investing in adequate testing and tracing resources, making our physical school environments safer, and encouraging a practical balance of social distancing in the classroom with learning and the reality of children’s lives.”
NB: “Ignore Trump. Listen to the evidence. Reopen the schools.”
REOPENING IS PREMATURE — Massachusetts School Committee Members
1. Reopening would “compromise too much, provide too little to ensure the safety of students.”
2. “Many of the Commonwealth’s schools lack the infrastructure to meet the state’s guidance. Many schools — especially those in urban municipalities — are cramped and don’t have space to accommodate proper social distancing.”
3. “We lack ventilation or even windows that open. We lack health infrastructure in schools.”
NB: “Guidelines should follow the strictest science, provide funding and resources directly, and center on those kids who are the most vulnerable.”
THE COVID-19 COLOR-CODED RISK DASHBOARD — Massachusetts is yellow
1. “The central variable is the level of COVID-19 in the community. There is no magic number that will make reopening entirely safe, but there are risk-assessment tools, including a COVID risk-level dashboard, developed by leading public health groups, that color codes counties across the nation according to the number of daily new cases. With a group of Harvard experts, we have developed guidelines based on these risk levels: red, orange, yellow, and green. If you are in a red zone, there is no way to open schools safely. Orange zones will struggle as well. If districts open schools in these areas, the chances are that those schools will probably close quickly when teachers, staff, and possibly students get sick in large numbers.”
2. “Yellow counties — like all those in Massachusetts — are in a slightly better position but must still make hard choices. To prevent a resurgence of cases, these districts must close bars, gyms, and indoor dining and consider how much nonessential retail they are willing to tolerate. We can open schools in yellow counties. But getting them to a green level will make opening schools much safer.”
3. “These efforts alone will not be enough. School districts have neither the resources nor the know-how to get their buildings ready to open safely. “
NB: the author, Ashish K. Jha, is a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health and will be Dean of Brown’s School of Public Health in the fall.
FINAL WORD: so what’s the right thing to do? what would you do if you were Governor? who would want that responsibility?
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.