How Safe Will it be to Start School in Fall?

Elie Yates, Staff

Lets face it, there is one question on a lot of our minds, when is school coming back? It’s obvious that this semester is over, we are within the final week of our 2019-2020 school year. Coronavirus has led to a lot of uncertainties regarding schools, businesses, and travel reopening, but there are so many factors that make each decision so difficult. The truth is, nobody really does know what will happen this August, so it makes it important to know all the facts and options for our next school year.

There is so much going on with the coronavirus, it is hard to keep all the facts straight. There is news at the national level, state level, and district level. Currently, there are over 1.3 million cases in the United States, with cases rising and falling every day. About 220,00 have survived and recovered but 80,820 people have died from the disease says the CDC. Even for those without COVID-19, they are still feeling the effects. People have continued to lose their jobs even with the country beginning to reopen. As of April 16th, 22 million Americans had filed for unemployment and left families without an income according to CNN. Our state though is beginning the slow process of reopening. Colorado’s governor Jared Polis has issued a Safer at Home order, meaning some non-essential business and workers have returned. Their businesses include personal training, salons, and dog grooming. This is effective until May 27th, and on May 25th there is going to be a decision made about restaurants. State park campsites are reopening on May 12th as well. While businesses and the workforce have seen some light at the end of the tunnel, school remains in the dark. Over 50 million kids still cannot go to school nationwide and are waiting for a decision to be made about going back.

To start school again as normal in the fall, a lot is going to have to happen. The CDC recommends a 14 day decrease in cases before beginning the reopening process and although Colorado has eased the social distancing restrictions, we haven’t met those guidelines. Granted, there is plenty of time before schools would reopen, nearly three months. But, the issue is nobody knows what will happen this summer. If and when schools reopen, everything still may not be quite normal, testing, temperature checks, and some social distancing rules may still be in place. Students may have the opportunity to go for a half day or a few days a week to keep some separation. It could work, but it would be a lot of work on the staff side of things. Undoubtedly, in person education is much more beneficial to students than online school. A research base developed by Karl Alexander at Johns Hopkins University and many others shows that students, especially students with fewer resources at home, learn less when they are not in school. It would be ideal for most families to get their students back in school too, over 71% of parents worry their kids are too distracted from their work and 61% worry about their kids mental health, according to a survey by Kaplan. There is certainly a possibility of us going back to school in the fall if we keep following the social distancing rules in place and hope for the best over the summer.

On the other hand, many are worried going to school in the fall could cause a second wave of coronavirus and there is talk about waiting till 2021 to reopen. There are many issues surrounding returning in fall as usual, transportation, crowded hallways, older staff with compromised immune systems, and plenty of close contact spaces. Millions of kids every day rely on mass transit to get to school and buses can be so crowded that there are three or four people in one seat, that obviously does not follow social distancing guidelines. One solution could be to cut the students on the bus by 50%, which would follow guidelines, but would be incredibly difficult for drivers, students, and parents. When students switch classes, there are over 900 students in the hallways at once, bumping into each other, walking together, coughing, all red flags under this situation. It is a known fact that COVID-19 spreads easily when people are within 6 feet of each other, as they always are in school hallways. Another big problem with going back to school is putting older staff members at risk. The Schools and Staffing Survey says 15.7% of colorado teachers are over the age of 55, that puts over 8000 teachers at risk. If one person at school gets coronavirus, an outbreak can start and reach the thousands of people inside our building and our community.

Every side to this argument has pros and cons, but there is still a decision to be made. We could go back to school and continue as normal this fall, or wait and go back in the second quarter or semester, or find an in between such as half days. With all the options at hand, we are going to have to see what summer brings.