Earlier this year, as the coronavirus spread through the world, schools’ doors were closed, and students were forced into online schooling. By April, a remarkable 1.5 billion young people were staying home as a part of shutdowns to protect communities from COVID-19. As weeks turned into months, educators and pediatricians began to worry about the effect that school closures were having on students, believing it was doing more harm than good. Scientists are continuing to study the effects COVID-19 has on young people, as children rarely develop severe symptoms. Reopening schools can be costly and take significant preparations, but continued closure could scare a generation of young people.
More than 130,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, but barely over a dozen were children between 5 and 14. According to a study published by Nature, people under 20 are about half as vulnerable to getting the virus compared to people over 20. When they do get infected, only two in ten show clinical symptoms, compared to the seven in ten infected adults over 70. Young adults have shown to be less susceptible to the virus, but as schools reopen, there is still a risk that children might spread the virus to adults.
Keeping schools closed may cause problems in educational development and health. Learning losses that students face from prolonged closure could be disastrous, especially for lower-income families. The lower-income families often rely on schools to provide lunches and keep an eye for health concerns in kids. It is harder for these parents to set up a proper school-like environment at home. Black and Hispanics are also at risk, given that the economic and racial learning gap widens during school breaks even in normal times.
Reopening schools in the fall, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, could cost about $200 billion. The money would help cover keeping schools clean, operating expenses for remote and in-person instruction, addressing students’ academic learning loss. It will also cover the anticipated decline in state and local funding for education due to the loss of incomes, sales, and other tax revenues. Covering school cleanings and the salary for teachers is extremely important, as it helps prevent students from getting exposed and supports teachers who are risking their health to teach.
The fall is approaching, and the start of the 2020-2021 academic school year is soon to begin. Schools closed during the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many teachers worried about how the continued closure will affect students. With young adults being less susceptible to the virus, the risk of reopening schools will be more on adults. If schools stay closed, it could be detrimental to the development of students, especially those that belong to lower-income families. Reopening schools will come at a cost, as schools will need to cover school cleaning and supporting teachers. Though it comes with risks, not reopening schools in the fall may do more harm to good in young adults.