Reopening schools poses unique challenge in K-12

There is no science presently available that helps school officials know when the time is right to reopen schools.  That goes for all institutions of learning, including colleges and universities.  But the problem is most acute in K-12 (“States Face Thorny Issues in Deciding When to Reopen Schools Post-Pandemic,” Education Week, Apr. 15).

Unlike higher education, where almost everything takes place in a single classroom or lecture hall, K-12 must contend with lunch service, busing, and physical education classes.  By their very nature, such things create large clusters of students.  As a result, school officials will be forced to come up with innovative ways of handling matters.

Their No. 1 concern must be the health of students.  In today’s litigious society, there will always be the threat of a lawsuit if any student dies as a result of reopening classes.  I don’t think education in this country will be recognizable until a coronavirus vaccine is developed.

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4 Replies to “Reopening schools poses unique challenge in K-12”

  1. Agree that the decision to reopen K-12 is complicated. But, seems like the much greater health danger is to the older family members and, indirectly, to the community at large if officials reopen K-12.

    Virtually all the stats thus far show that K-12 students very rarely get seriously ill or die from covid-19. For K-12 students, getting covid-19 is almost certainly less dangerous than getting the flu. (Of course, there’s always the chance that all these people who became infected with covid-19 and recovered with zero/minor symptoms might some time in the future develop some bad adverse effects. But, that’s total speculation with zero evidence at this point.)

    On the other hand, K-12 classrooms are perfect breeding grounds for the covid-19 virus — lots of people in close quarters with each other for hours at a time + younger kids who are bad at personal hygiene + many/most of the actually-infected will show no symptoms of the covid-19. My layman’s guess is that if one student in a second-grade class has active covid-19 for say three days of school, at least five of his classmates will have become infected by the end of those three days + the next week, those five will return to the classroom and most of the class will have been infected after say three weeks.

    The problem for the govt officials is all those infected kids going home to their families and infecting their siblings, parents, and older relatives.

    Have not seen any stats at all re the percentage of K-12 students in NYC who test positive for the covid-19 antibodies. My guess is that there will be a relatively high percentage — at least 20%.

    I predict that — when the govt gets around to doing widespread random sample testing for the covid-19 antibodies (showing past infection and recovery) — we’ll see that K-12 schools are the principal contagion sources for the virus + that closing the schools (rather than closing the restaurants or sporting events or movie theaters) was the key to slowing the spread of the virus.

    Even assuming that all of the above is true, it still does not answer the question of whether/when the K-12 schools should reopen. Govt officials might opt to reopen the K-12 schools while simultaneously encouraging the elderly/higher-risk adults to stay away from kids attending K-12 school.


  2. Labor Lawyer: It is indeed a most perplexing issue. In today’s litigious society, however, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if reopening schools too soon resulted in a class action lawsuit when even one child is infected. But pressure is building to lift the lock down. We are in unprecedented times.


    1. If there are lawsuits, I think they will not be about the reopening decision itself — at least, any such lawsuits will be dismissed on summary judgment as the judges do not want to get into second-guessing govt on that kind of issue.

      Rather, the lawsuits will be on more limited/specific issues — i.e., privacy vs. public-need-to-know (like when Student X tests positive or ten students test positive in a class and the school system does or does not tell the parents of the rest of the students in the class re the positive test results and/or who the students were who tested positive) or negligent hiring (school system knows/should-have-known that Teacher X had active covid-19 but allowed X to continue teaching). Those of more the kind of issues that judges are used to addressing.


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