OPINION: Opening schools ‘too risky’

Students attending class in Guam, both socially distanced and masked. (Guam Department of Education)Students attending class in Guam, both socially distanced and masked. (Guam Department of Education)

Stephen Duke, Correspondent

It’s a hot button issue right now in the current climate of the world: with a pandemic going on, should schools be opening?

I first want to look at this from the point of view of those in favor of opening schools. School can be a safe haven for many students. Some students have very toxic and terrible home lives, and school tends to be that one place where they get the love and support they need to flourish in life. Without school, there are many students in rural areas who may go without nourishment. For many students in households who live in poverty, school is the time they get food. During that time, they are often fed breakfast and lunch.

Another argument for the opening of schools is that most socialization in the middle high school age bracket occurs at school. Since the lockdowns and stay at home orders began way back in March, students have been cooped up in their homes. According to a study conducted in China, approximately a quarter of the 1,784 children surveyed — that is, roughly 20-25 percent — stated feeling depressed. This could primarily result from the “lack of outdoor activity and play or social interactions,” according to researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics. The development of socialization skills in children and teens is vital, and taking away the social hub in their lives greatly reduces that development, thus leading to problems emotionally.

Now for the other side of the token ― Looking at this from the perspective of one who is going into education, I can see where teachers are advocating for online learning over opening schools. Schools tend to be a virus’s paradise. Oftentimes, we see sicknesses like the flu and strep throat running rampant in schools. It stands to reason that a virus like COVID-19 would be very similar in nature. However, it’s not just the fact of schools being virus hotbeds. It also has to do with the nature of how the classrooms would be structured.

Under normal conditions, classrooms can be arranged in a variety of ways. There may be desks lined up in rows; tables for stations, groups, or labs; or special seating, such as reading chairs, math hubs, or the like. Under COVID-19 conditions, teachers have to be very decisive with how to lay out their classrooms. Some may have to use special partitions to keep students from getting in one anothers faces when social distancing is not feasible. Some of the partitions may even be as tall as the workspace. These would be rendered ineffective once students poke holes in them. 

With all of this in consideration, it is my belief that schools should wait it out at least a few weeks. We’ve already seen in areas where schools started back at the end of July and into the beginning of August have had students attend school with symptoms while awaiting test results. We’ve seen students not adhere to the masks and social distancing guidelines. It is too risky. While schools are not in session, many are still providing food for children. 

The reopening of schools at this time is not worth the risk. There’s also always the possibility that students and teachers bring it home to their family. Sometimes students may have parents who live with their parents to help take care of them. If a student brought the virus home to their grandparents, according to many doctors I have spoken with, it would prove to be lethal. Yes, we need our children to learn, but we also have to be responsible. The school year of 2020-2021 will be one for the history books indeed. The best option may be to open the history books, as well as the others, from home for now.

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