Story at a glance
- With a few months left until the traditional beginning of the school year, administrators are wondering whether to reopen or continue virtual education.
- Some counties in California and elsewhere have decided not to reopen this fall, while others are insistent on sending kids to school.
- While some countries have managed to send kids back to school safely, others have struggled with spikes in cases.
The decision of whether or not to reopen schools this fall despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has become highly politicized, especially ahead of a presidential election this November. Many Republicans are encouraging schools to open, while some school districts in Democratic-led California have already announced that they will hold fall classes virtually.
In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2020
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President Trump has pointed to other countries that have reopened schools to varying results. But the United States has reported more coronavirus cases than Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden combined, and new cases are still surging in several states. Many countries that have reopened schools also have universal health care systems, unlike the U.S., where millions of Americans do not have access to testing or health insurance if they are infected.
Some countries have also sought to reduce classroom capacity and keep children in smaller “bubbles” of exposure. In Denmark, where schools reopened without a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, students are divided into groups of 12 under one teacher, arriving at separate times and remaining separate throughout the day. In New South Wales, students came to school just one day a week, split either by grade, last name or another method.
Other countries have focused on mask-wearing and temperature checks, such as Vietnam and Japan. And if students or teachers are diagnosed with COVID-19, those exposed are quickly informed and self-isolated.
For what not to do, Americans can learn from Israel, where cases have spiked since schools reopened, with at least 1,335 students and 691 staff infected by Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Only children in the first, second and third grades were initially sent back to school to learn in small, separated groups. But on May 17, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that the entire school system would reopen, and the case numbers soared. The country also lifted bans on large gatherings at the same time, increasing the possibility of students being infected outside of the classroom.
Even with all the right preventative measures in place, however, some countries, including Italy, Japan and France, have struggled to enforce them. Arnaud Fontanet, head of the Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, told The Washington Post that there’s no guarantee students, especially younger ones, will follow the new rules.
“Basically, the difficulty is enforcing social distancing among students,” Fontanet told The Washington Post. “People have more or less given up on that entirely at this stage.”
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