We need to keep the schools open

For months, schools across the nation have remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  This is completely unnecessary and will have dire consequences for millions of American children.

This is why Dr. Anthony Fauci recently stated during a CNN interview that "[t]he default position to be is try as best as possible to keep the schools open, but you've got to have not one size fits all, you've got to take a look at what is going on in the particular location where you're at.  But we should be trying to keep the children in school as safely as we possibly can." 

He added, "Do what you can to keep the children and the teachers safe but try as best as possible to keep the schools open." 

Fauci, for once, is right.  America's schools should be open.  And every day that passes while children languish at home, away from their peers and teachers, is a day they will never get back.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was understandable that extreme caution was exercised and schools were temporarily closed.

However, months later, we are much more knowledgeable about how the virus spreads as well as its impact, or lack thereof, on children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "[a]nalysis of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization data from 14 states from early March to late July 2020 found the cumulative rate of COVID-19-associated hospitalization among children was over 20 times lower compared to adults (8.0 versus 164.5 per 100,000 population)."

As of December 1, 87 Americans under the age of 14 have died from COVID-19.  Although every one of these deaths is tragic, we need to keep in mind that many more children in this age range die of the common flu or in car accidents while on their way to and from school every year.

Moreover, data overwhelmingly show that children rarely spread COVID-19, which means that teachers and administrators are unlikely to get COVID-19 while in a school.

All in all, the science says schools are safe, children are practically immune to the coronavirus, and they are almost incapable of transmitting the virus.

Yet the vast majority of our schools remain closed.  So what are the consequences of keeping schools closed for months?

In short, keeping most of America's schools closed is producing dire consequences across the board for millions of students.

First, students are failing courses at alarming rates because virtual education is not nearly as effective as in-person learning.  As a former public school teacher, I can attest to this commonsense notion.  There simply is no substitute for one-on-one, in-person education.

Second, depression among children is skyrocketing.  Social isolation among children due to the pandemic is producing all sorts of troubling and tragic behaviors, including a spike in suicide and a rise in substance abuse.

Even worse, children who live with abusive family members are now stuck in this dangerous environment all day, without relief and help from mental health professionals in schools.

Third, millions of children are going hungry because they rely on most of their meals being provided in school.  This sad situation has only been exacerbated by the economic turmoil caused by lockdowns that have left millions of American families jobless and unable to provide basic necessities.

For most children, the benefits of attending in-person schooling are irreplaceable.  Keeping students at home for close to a full year will leave these children intellectually, psychologically, and physically stunted for years to come.  The psychological consequences alone are reason enough to make anyone question the wisdom of this policy.

And the fact that children are basically invulnerable to the virus only adds to the absurdity of this illogical decision.

Societies should do everything they can to ensure that children are protected, educated, and healthy.  The ill conceived decision by far too many political leaders to keep schools closed is a dereliction of this sacred societal duty.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.

Image: Pixabay.

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