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Disparities will widen if schools don’t reopen

The COVID-related school closures have caused nearly 9 in 10 parents to worry about their child falling behind academically because distance learning (if it happened at all) did not meet many students’ learning needs. As a result, over 64 percent of Minnesota parents would like their student to return to school this fall.

The American Association of Pediatrics has echoed parents’ concerns and wishes for the upcoming school year, stating “there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020” and that “the importance of in-person learning is well-documented.”

According to a survey conducted by the School Transformation Collaborative and the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota, school closures have impacted Minnesota’s students in a variety of ways, ranging from “social isolation to mental health impacts to struggles with distance learning to missed milestones.”

School closures are exacerbating the academic achievement gap and economic and health disparities. As I have written here, Minnesota’s educational disparities were significant pre-COVID; our students cannot afford to lose more ground.

There is mounting evidence that children are less likely to become infected with the coronavirus, and there is little to no evidence of children-to-adult transmission. Data collection by The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity found that children aged 5-14 are seven times more likely to die of influenza than of COVID, and children aged 1-4 are twenty times more likely to die of influenza. Additionally, “hospitalization rates among school-aged children associated with COVID-19 are sufficiently low to justify the reopening of schools.” Even a scientific panel has urged that schools reopen, citing the educational risks involved if students are not back in school.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Governor Tim Walz has claimed he is “following the science” (which, as my colleague Isaac Orr has written about, hasn’t actually guided nearly all of his decisions). If “science versus politics” is supposed to influence decision-making, it’s time to do that with regard to reopening schools. Visit OpenMNSchools.com and let Gov. Walz know online learning isn’t enough and our kids need to be in the classroom this fall.

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