As the fall months approach, many parents and guardians of children that normally would be returning to school are caught in the limbo of reopenings, unsure whether their local school district will resume in-person classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some school districts have announced that they will reopen schools with a hybrid model. Seminole County in Florida, for example, will give parents the option of enrolling their students in face-to-face learning, online learning, or a mix of multiple options. Volusia County, Florida expects to give parents multiple options, and emphasizes social distancing if students return to their classrooms.
Many school districts have decided to start the upcoming school year entirely online, as is the case with California’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified.
Pressure is being exerted in both directions — while President Donald Trump is urging schools to reopen in the fall, teachers unions have resisted reopening, citing health dangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a guidance in late June urging schools to reopen for in-person learning at the start of their school years, but later softened its stance, calling on public health agencies to be in charge of those decisions, according to Politico.
Reopen schools in the fall. Listen to the science. https://t.co/OwIA41O6ao
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) July 16, 2020
Although researchers are continuing to learn about coronavirus, multiple studies have shown that coronavirus may not be easily spread among children, and being in a school setting didn’t create an outbreak.
“We don’t think our children should be locked up at home” @PressSec “when its perfectly safe for them to go to school” defending call for schools to fully reopen
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) July 16, 2020
A study by researchers at New South Wales’ National Centre For Immunisation Research and Surveillance in Australia looked at staff and students at five primary schools and 10 high schools from March to mid-April, and found that of 863 people who were in close contact with someone infected with coronavirus, only 2 people, or 0.23%, contracted the virus.
The study “found no evidence of children infecting teachers” and suggested that coronavirus spread in schools is very limited.
Similarly, a study published in April found that a 9-year-old who attended three different schools and a skiing class while infected with coronavirus and showing symptoms didn’t infect anyone.
“The fact that an infected child did not transmit the disease despite close interactions within schools suggests potential different transmission dynamics in children,” the study concluded.
“It would be almost unheard of for an adult to be exposed to that many people and not infect anyone else,” Alasdair Munro, a pediatric infectious-diseases researcher at University Hospital Southampton said according to Nature.
While these studies are from the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns in the U.S., recent reports from Sweden and Germany seem to suggest similar conclusions. Sweden’s public health agency found that between February 24 and June 14, there was no measurable direct impact on the number of coronavirus cases among school-aged children in Finland, which closed schools, and Sweden, which kept schools open.
A German study released Monday also found that the virus doesn’t spread easily in schools, and children may actually act as a “brake” on chains of infection. (RELATED: Coronavirus Not Spreading Among Students, Swedish And German Health Professionals Say)
“It is rather the opposite,” Prof Berner told a press conference according to the Telegraph. “Children act more as a brake on infection. Not every infection that reaches them is passed on.”
A commentary published in the official peer-review journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics also concluded in July that children infrequently transmit the virus to each other or to adults.
A majority of voters oppose schools fully opening in the fall, however, and many people fear the possibility that children could transmit the virus to adults, who are more susceptible to severe symptoms if they are elderly or immunocompromised.
Some studies don’t agree that children aren’t transmiting the virus as easily. A study conducted by Germany’s chief virologist found that children may be as infectious as adults and recommended countries “practice caution against an unlimited re-opening of schools” in the present situation, according to Advisory.
The lead author in the aforementioned study in New South Wales also suggests the results shouldn’t be used as a basis for reopening schools, since low transmission didn’t mean no transmission.
“I think children can still transmit coronavirus. That’s certainly the case. We’ve seen that,” she said according to Advisory.
In many states, as virus case loads reach new highs, the situation come August is unpredictable, and many parents may be faced with the quandary of whether to send their children back to school if given the option, or keeping them at home after several months cooped up indoors.