How to Reopen Schools

How to Reopen Schools

2021-02-23 11:38:19
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There are two obvious ways to reopen schools. One is to take precautions, such as wearing a mask, to minimize the risk of outbreaks in school buildings. The other is to vaccinate the country's teachers as soon as possible.

Both strategies now seem feasible – and yet neither happens in many places.

Instead, about half of K-12 students still don't spend time in classrooms. School closures are highest in Maryland, New Mexico, California and Oregon, according to BurbioExperts say the long absence causes major learning difficulties, especially for lower-income students.

Today's newsletter looks at how American children can get back to school quickly and safely.

The country now has enough vaccine doses for teachers to bring forward without significantly delaying vaccinations for everyone else.

Rural, about 6.5 million people work in a primary school. It is a significantly smaller group than the 21 million health workers, many of whom were among the first group of Americans to qualify for vaccines.

As a reference point, Moderna and Pfizer have an average of more than a million new doses to the federal government every day this month. That daily number will exceed three million next month. Vaccinating every school worker immediately would reduce everyone else's vaccine for a few days at the most.

A few states have already prioritized teachers, with Kentucky apparently furthest in time, according to Education WeekIt's done administering the first dose to most of the K-12 staff who want one. “This is going to help us get our kids back to school safely than just about any other state,” said Governor Andy Beshear, “and it will allow us to do it without the health of those who come in to serve. children."

Even before teachers are fully vaccinated – a process that can take more than a month after initial admission – many schools have shown how to reopen.

It includes "masking, social distancing, hand washing, adequate ventilation, and contact tracking," as Susan Dominus wrote (in a fascinating Times Magazine story about how Rhode Island usually kept its schools open). It also includes setting up virtual alternatives for some students and staff who want them. When schools have taken this approach, it has typically worked, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others.

In one of the most rigorous studies, a group at Tulane University looked at hospital admissions (a more reliable measure than positive tests) before and after the school reopened. The Results suggest that at least 75 percent of American communities now have Covid well enough under control to reopen schools without causing new outbreaks, including many places where schools remain closed.

The evidence is murkier for places with the worst current outbreaks, such as many of the Carolinas. And some schools seem unsafe to have reopened, including a Georgia district that's the subject of a new C.D.C. case study

Still, Douglas Harris, the Tulane economist who leads the research group, said, "All studies suggest that we can do this if we set our sights on it." He added, "We can't go to school the old way, but we can do better than this."

One final note: I've been writing lately about the cost of the overly negative message that many people are spreading about the vaccines, even though the vaccines eliminate virtually all serious forms of Covid. Schools are another place where you can see that cost – in Oregon.

Like Kentucky, Oregon has made it a priority to vaccinate teachers. But some teacher unions there have expressed skepticism about reopening even after teachers have been vaccinated, as my colleague Shawn Hubler has written.

Spring practice has begun, and Major League Baseball is suffering from a strange condition: some high-profile teams aren't trying to win. The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, and Pittsburgh Pirates have all thrown top players overboard in recent trades and got only modest returns.

It's extremely frustrating for fans. "Can you complain to the Better Business Bureau on behalf of all Rockies fans against the Rockies management because this is just completely horrifying?" a recently wrote to The Denver Post

What is happening? Baseball teams are businesses, and winning isn't always the best way to make a profit. The teams receive significant income from merchandise sales, television contracts, and more. And the pandemic has crushed the form of income most dependent on performance: people buying tickets.

In response, several teams have chosen to cut payroll. Their executives promise fans it's part of a plan to add exciting young players later. "The idea of ​​disassembly – some call it tanking – isn't new," The Times's Tyler Kepner told us. "But it is definitely more widespread now."

As Tyler points out, many players are also frustrated, believing owners to act like a cartel that keeps salaries down. The negotiation agreement will expire after this season and the next round of negotiations can be rocky.

In Tyler's recent columns, he looks at three teams trying to win: the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and New York Yankees.


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