Blue states and red states are both doing school reopenings wrong

“We now have experience with school openings, both in the US and globally, and there is little data to support the idea that schools are a major site of transmission or a driver of community spread.

For example, New York City has had schools open in a hybrid model since early October and monitors Covid-19 in the district by testing a random sample of students and staff. As of November 12, results show that of more than 123,585 total tests conducted since October 9, only 228 were positive (0.19 percent) — 95 students and 133 staff. These results are still early in the year, and students are not back yet full-time, but with more than a month of data, and during a time when cases are rising in New York generally, Covid-19 is not tearing through New York City public schools.”

“Quickly closing schools — where we have not seen a lot of transmission — while leaving higher-risk establishments open — where there is a lot of transmission — does not make sense. When faced with overwhelming case surge and crushing hospital demand, school closure could be necessary to prevent further Covid-19 surge, but only as one component of a larger plan to reduce mobility and control transmission.”

“data has been emerging about the harms of ongoing school closures. Washington, DC’s public schools, which remain in a largely remote model despite having low local new case rates until recently, report substantial reductions in kindergarten students meeting or exceeding benchmarks for reading. And Chicago Public Schools, which also remain in a largely remote model, report a stunning 15,000-student decrease in enrollment this year. Unforeseen extended school closures lead to lower test scores, lower educational attainment, and decreased earning potential.

These gaps are not impacting all groups equally. The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) reports that districts with the highest rates of poverty are nearly twice as likely to be operating with remote learning as districts with the lowest rates. The higher a district’s share of white students, the more likely it is to offer in-person instruction — a pattern that generally holds across cities, towns, suburbs, and rural areas. A great racial and economic disparity is widening unnecessarily, one that will be sewn into the fabric of our society even beyond this generation if we do not rectify the problem now.”

“If the blue states are for holding back, many red states are recklessly opening their schools and increasing the odds of exposing children and staff to Covid-19 in the midst of raging outbreaks.”