Every teacher I know, every principal and every superintendent, wants kids in school. I don’t know any educator who thinks remote learning is better for kids in preschool to 12th grade.
But they also want kids — and themselves — to be safe. Pretty much everywhere across the U.S., educators are scrambling to figure out how they can have both.
No one can accurately predict what the results might be if schools reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. There simply isn’t enough data and the numbers are changing daily.
But let’s do some math based on the numbers that are available. Information here is gleaned from a variety of sources, including the Center for Disease Control and the Census.
There are 328.2 million people in the U.S. There have been 3.37 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. That number is growing, and the disease is likely underreported. There have been 137,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. — a number that also is growing and likely underestimated.
One can debate infection rates and death rates, but the black and white numbers show an infection rate of 0.01 and a death rate among those infected of 0.04.
Data on children is even harder to pin down, and a lot of it is based on reports from China, which has underplayed its numbers.
But we know that there are about 78.6 million students in the U.S. There is conflicting data on that, but that’s a U.S. Census number.
The CDC states that it appears that symptoms are less severe in children. The data is unreliable, but keep in mind that we’re only in the middle of this crisis but also that social distancing and economic shutdowns are believed to have effectively slowed down the spread of the virus.
Using the available data, if schools reopen even with safety precautions, we can expect to see 768,000 COVID infections among school children in the U.S. next year.
If the death rate among children infected is half of the national average, we can expect to see more than 15,000 deaths next year.
What is an acceptable number? School children die every year from a variety of causes. The top three reasons are car accidents, gun violence and cancer. We don’t keep 76 million kids home from school because some of them will be killed in car accidents.
The coronavirus pandemic, of course, is a different animal. Once a child who goes to school has been exposed, everyone in the school potentially is exposed. And the child may not exhibit symptoms of the disease for two weeks if ever.
Two thoughts come to my mind. First, we have to trust that our educators are doing everything they can to create a safe environment for our children. Their track record is pretty good — from safety drills and security locks to best practices for sanitation.
Our educators love our children like they were their own. Overwhelmingly, that’s why they chose to be educators; they’re not there for the money.
Second, we need to do our part to help keep the community safe, which helps keep the schools safe. That means wearing face coverings and keeping our distance. Face coverings are no more of a threat to your Constitutional rights than wearing pants.
You want your kids back in school? You want to help save lives? You want to watch football this fall? Then practice social distancing, wash your hands and wear your mask.
This pandemic isn’t going to last forever, but it will last longer if we don’t work together.
© Copyright 2020 by David Porter, who can be reached at email@example.com.