Our Opinion: Caution needed in returning to school

Published 6:30 am Saturday, July 11, 2020

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Maybe it seems like a no-brainer, but as momentum mounts to return students at all levels of education to the classroom, extraordinary caution will have to be observed and with that will need to come trust and understanding.

This has become especially important considering the sheer rise in COVID-19 cases in a majority of the country in recent weeks.

This simply can not be about throwing wide the doors of education and welcoming back students as normal.

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Currently, the Minnesota Department of Education has directed schools to prepare for three possible scenarios:

All students return to school buildings following CDC/MDH guidelines.

Students return using a hybrid model (in-person/distance learning) following CDC/MDH guidelines.

No students return, implement distance learning model.

Schools throughout the state will come up with plans for each scenario so as to be better prepared when MDE decides what path will be taken this fall.

But preparations will go beyond that and schools must be given the option to make the decision to pull back opening if cases rise to a point where administrations feel unsafe when it comes to opening.

What can’t continue to happen is unnecessary pressures from on high that includes President Trump, who has threatened to withhold federal funding if states and schools do not open back up this fall.

Schools and communities have enough pressures the way it stands now. Adding threats to that pressure don’t help, even though that threat is largely hollow as Congress holds much of the power in determining where funding goes.

Either way, the spirit of these threats further complicates an already complicated situation that already has several unknowns.

A recent survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health has found that most parents were in favor of sending students back to classrooms. According to the survey, 64.3 percent reported they are comfortable sending their kids back to schools.

There is no doubt that schools need live teaching. Study upon study have shown that students respond better — both educationally speaking as well as socially speaking — to teachers when both parties are in a classroom setting.

While technology makes teaching from a distance easier, it will never be substitutes for teachers meeting one-on-one with students. However, returning to the classrooms can’t be a ramshackled run for the desks simply because it needs to be so.

There still is not enough data on how the coronavirus affects children. Most scientific professionals agree that symptoms in children generally are mild, however, they have also found that a condition can develop that is life threatening.

According to the Harvard Health Publishing:

“A complication that has more recently been observed in children can be severe and dangerous. Called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), it can lead to life-threatening problems with the heart and other organs in the body. Early reports compare it to Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory illness that can lead to heart problems.”

Studies have also suggested that while children may not be affected as badly as adults, they can still be carriers, so the concerns of teachers and staff must also be taken into consideration.

So, it’s a measured response that must be taken to ensure students are safe. We hope sometime in the relatively near future we will see kids in the classroom again, but caution and well thought out planning must be accomplished between local and state agencies to ensure that return is as safe as possible.