Going to school is a core function of a civilized society. Yet, due to the coronavirus pandemic that spurred nationwide lockdowns in March, American schools closed their doors. Since then, most of our nation's 57 million children in grades K-12 have been isolated at home, cut off from face-to-face human contact, friends, sports, school activities and normal life.
This cruel and unusual punishment cannot continue indefinitely, especially since it's well-known that the coronavirus mostly affects the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions — not children. So though the main reason for justifying the mass closure of America's schools is to protect children, our kids are not a high-risk group. Does that warrant this radical upheaval to their lives? Does that warrant the impact on millions of parents nationwide who can't pay their bills and feed their families because they can't go to work with children at home?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 10 children in the U.S. between ages 0-14 have died from COVID-19 as of May 6. As tragic as that is, for comparison, 107 kids in the same age group have died this year from pneumonia and 85 from the flu. But we would never close schools for those deadly diseases.
For the 15-24 age bracket, 48 died in the U.S. from COVID-19 as of May 6, while 143 have died in the same age range of pneumonia and 41 from the flu. Similarly, our nation doesn't close down colleges and universities for those non-COVID cases.
Parents ought to remember that when school and/or government officials inevitably succumb to teachers unions laundry list of demands come September, which could result in continued school closures, subjecting millions of youth to more unhealthy isolation and subpar online learning.
No parent should accept this as "the new normal." The data we have at this time simply doesn't warrant it. Of course, the pandemic is a fluid situation and things could change for better or worse in the coming months.
Some have concerns that if kids go back to school they could transmit COVID-19 to teachers or other adults; however, it's simply a guessing game how transmissible it is between these populations. The speculation varies depending on who you ask. But we do know kids can be carriers and transmitters of influenza —another contagious virus that kills thousands each year — and again, we don't close schools because of it.
In a piece in The New York Times, Apoorva Mandavilli writes, "Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the decision to reopen schools cannot be made based solely on trying to prevent transmission." Nuzzo said, "I think we have to take a holistic view of the impact of school closures on kids and our families. I do worry at some point, the accumulated harms from the measures may exceed the harm to the kids from the virus."
Exactly. We can't let the cure be worse than the disease. And if parents don't speak up and demand that schools reopen this fall, that's likely what will happen — regardless if a resurgence of the virus takes place or not. The stark reality is that the coronavirus may be with us indefinitely, just like the seasonal flu, and we must adapt to it rather than canceling youth sports and revamping the entire U.S. education system.
What schools should do is offer teachers and parents a choice. For parents who are afraid to send their children back to school, those students should stay home and either do homeschooling or continue with online learning. Same with teachers. If any are fearful to return to school, they, too, should remain at home and teach online while the rest of the healthy population gets back together in the classroom.
Sound reasonable? If so, contact your local school officials today.
Adriana Cohen is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16. To find out more about Adriana Cohen and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.