Education in a Pandemic: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Returning to The Classroom
School districts from coast to coast will face a difficult decision in the coming weeks, whether or not to hold in-person classes this Fall. Already some major public school districts such as Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified have opted to hold the entirety of their Fall instruction online. Simultaneously, other school districts across the country have had a different approach - in-person instruction. Instruction is already once again underway at several schools in the Kansas City area and has been announced in several Georgian school districts. Being such an unprecedented time, there is no true 'right' answer as to whether or not children should return to in-person instruction. That being said, we can still look at the benefits and drawbacks of returning to classroom instruction to have a better idea of what the best direction is for the near future regarding American educational instruction.
First, let us begin with the benefits. For one, kids need social interaction for a variety of reasons. Through social encounters with others, children learn to find their sense of self as help develop brain function. Noone on the left or right will argue against this - it is simply good for children to interact with one another to help the developmental process.
Next comes the aspect of childcare. Let's face it, even in a pandemic many of us have careers to attend to. Having online instruction for the Fall means for many parents either finding a daycare service, hiring a nanny, or taking off work. Many of these options aren't feasible for all Americans - especially given it is a new and unexpected expense. Having in-person classroom instruction would help to alleviate this issue.
Finally, we come to the argument most heard from the right, that children have an extremely low mortality rate to the virus. Again, this is true and inarguable as children do by far suffer low rates of mortality to the coronavirus, especially when compared against other age brackets. That being said, that does not mean children don't themselves spread the virus as we will now discuss.
Slowing the spread of the disease is what the government has been attempting to do for months through all the lockdowns, mask mandates, and business closures. Unfortunately, none of those measures have been implemented properly and so here we are, over five months into a pandemic and still hitting record-setting case numbers. We know children can get the virus and while their symptoms may be less severe and their mortality rate low, they can still give this virus to their parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. This seems like a fairly good reason to not open schools.
In addition to the health and well being of the student's family, also at risk if schools are to return to in-person instruction is the health and safety of the teacher. Many teachers are of an elderly age while others themselves are prone to a higher risk of health issues. Furthermore, the last thing educators want to do to their own families is to expose them to COVID. What will the schools do when teachers are infected? Will there be daily testings of teachers? Extra substitute teachers? Many questions and thus far, few answers.
As I said at the beginning of this article, no one side has the answer to this problem... at least not yet. There are logistical issues on both sides of this argument. No decision, whether it is to hold in-person classes or not, will be satisfactory to all parties. The crisis our country currently faces is one of historic proportions in which there is no playbook to reference. We will continue, as we have for months, to take this pandemic one day at a time. Regardless of this Fall, with some luck maybe all of America's students will be back in class safely sometime soon.