Parents want their kids back in school, and the science supports them
Quite recently the Minnesota Department of Education conducted an informal study, asking Minnesota families about their experience with distance learning and their hopes for the upcoming year. According to the data collected from over 130,000 respondents, 64.3% are “comfortable” sending their students to school in the fall. Of those that feel comfortable, 94.4% would prefer to send their students back full-time.
If you agree with the majority of Minnesotans, sign this petition and tell Governor Walz to re-open our schools this fall!
Additionally, among parents who were “unsure” whether they are comfortable having students return to the classroom this fall, 87.2% said “daily cleaning of surfaces” would make them feel comfortable, followed by 76% who said, “smaller class sizes” and 72.2% “daily health checks.”
The science supports sending kids back to school
All parents certainly have varying reasons for wanting their kids back in the classroom. Some parents want their kids in school so that they can be relieved from the pressure of having to stay home to take care of their kids instead of working. Other parents may be trying to avoid the hurdles of accessing distance learning for their kids. Others may simply not have the resources to homeschool their kids and would prefer their kids to go back to the classroom.
Undeniably, not every parent agrees that kids should be back in school. But fortunately for parents, the science is behind them and heavily supports the idea that reopening schools will be more beneficial to kids without putting them at a significant risk. According to research, not only do kids face a low risk of contracting and spreading the virus, but they also learn better in the classroom. Children additionally have fallen behind in learning and they risk falling even further behind if they do not get back to in-class learning.
Children face a low risk of contracting the coronavirus
Back in March, a study by Benjamin Lee and William V. Raszka was published in the Pediatrics journal detailing the prevalence of coronavirus infections in children. The study found that “children appear to be infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, far less frequently than adults and, when infected, typically have mild symptoms“.
Shortly after this, in mid-April, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) released a report that had similar contents. In this report, the CDC outlined that they had observed that “children diagnosed with coronavirus in the United States typically have mild cases of the virus.” Additionally, children made up only a tiny fraction of the total number of coronavirus cases, and also had lower rates of hospitalization for the virus. This is something that has been observed in many other countries around the world.
In Australia, for example, in mid-April, the National Center for Immunization on Research and Surveillance produced a report that showed that “ SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in schools appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza”. The study found out that cases of COVID-19 among people aged less than 19 years old made up only 4% of total cases, despite the group making up 23% of the population. The study furthermore found no evidence of children infecting teachers and most initial cases of COVID-19 were found among teachers. Similar findings in China showed that children made up a tiny fraction of positive cases and were not big transmitters of the virus.
Around the same time that the Australian study came out, Denmark and Finland were reopening their schools. These two countries were among the two earliest to reopen their schools and send kids back into the classroom, with measures in place. By June, data was showing that there had not been an in increase in COVID-19 spread, further suggesting that children are not the primary drivers of the COVID-19 spread in the community.
In May, the Pediatrics Journal published a Swiss study that showcased similar findings. The study included 4310 COVID-19 patients and only 40 (.9%) of the patients were younger than 16. According to the study,
Since the onset of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, children have been less affected than adults in terms of severity and frequency, accounting for ,2% of the cases. Unlike with other viral respiratory infections, children do not seem to be a major vector of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission, with most pediatric cases described inside familial clusters and no documentation of child-to-child or child-to-adult transmission.
Just more recently, Epidemiologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted a study on Covid-19 that surveyed the six nations of Canada, China, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. The study found that “children and teenagers are only half as likely to get infected with the coronavirus as people 20 and older, and they usually don’t develop clinical symptoms of COVID-19“. According to the report, only 21% of individuals between the ages of 10 and 19 infected with the virus showed symptoms compared to 69% among patients over the age of 70.
It is still hard to say how infections children are, but if they are less likely to contract the disease, they are in effect less likely to be the spreaders of the disease. Even under the most pessimistic assumptions, children have been found to play a small role in spreading Covid-19.
Children learn better in classroom settings
Generally, studies show that kids learn better in classroom settings; they are able to concentrate and engage themselves fully. This has been one of the reasons why pediatricians have been calling for kids to go back to the classroom. Pediatricians recognize how important classroom settings are to student learning. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly advocating that states should aim to have students physically present in school.
Additionally, learning in class is also socially beneficial to students. The school environment provides extra supportive services that contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of students. And taking away that environment would be detrimental to kids health as well as development. This is summarized by the AAP, in their statement
The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020. Lengthy-time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation. This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been a substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.
Children have fallen behind in learning
When schools closed, most countries, including the United States, replaced physical classroom learning with distance learning. However, with distance learning, parents, as well as educators, have discovered that students only receive a fraction of the learning that they would receive in class.
There is certainly a lot of reasons why this happened. Generally, when it comes to distance learning, students face a lot of issues; they may not feel motivated, they may have trouble completing schoolwork, they may have trouble focusing as well as accessing the internet to join classes. Because of these factors, students have trouble keeping up and they fall behind.
But due to the coronavirus, these issues that students face were exacerbated by a general lack of preparedness within the whole system. When schools closed in the united states, public schools were ill-prepared to switch to distance training, teachers were not well trained and some parents, especially those with limited education and resources, were not prepared for distance and homeschooling. According to a survey by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, only one-fifth of schools surveyed required teachers to provide live online video lessons for their students.
Due to all these factors and many others, students have suffered massive losses in learning, and most are behind. This was especially worse for low-income students, who had limited resources to learn effectively.
Because of the lockdown, a study from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute shows, students will begin the 2020-21 school year with about 70% of what they should have learned in reading this year and with less than half of what they should have learned in math. The loss in math will be even worse in lower grades.
The Health and Education departments in Minnesota have advised Schools to prepare for three scenarios; (1) all students return to school (2) a mix of in-school and online learning (3) distance learning only. But if we are really following the science, there is no good reason to keep schools closed for the remainder of the year. According to science “Not only are schools “fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being,” but there is “mounting evidence regarding COVID-19 in children” that indicates they “may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection” because they are less likely to catch the disease in the first place.