President needs to back off on school reopening
Return to classes should depend on local conditions
President Donald Trump is threatening to withhold some federal funds from education institutions, both K-12 and colleges and universities, if they do not reopen soon for the fall semester. Some governors also have issued blanket reopening schedules for their public schools.
This is misguided, even if it is within the power of the president and governors. Each and every one of them should back off.
Millions of Americans want schools and institutions of higher learning to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. But when is that?
Is it Aug. 15? Aug. 30? Mid-September? That depends.
COVID-19 has come roaring back in many places. School reopening schedules that seemed reasonable just two weeks ago now sound dangerous.
Looking at the situation solely from the standpoint of children’s wellbeing is misguided — even though a few of them have been affected severely by the coronavirus. The overwhelming majority seem to suffer few, if any, serious symptoms from being infected.
But for that very reason, they can serve as effective carriers of the virus. They can take it home from school, transmitting it to parents, grandparents and others. Preventing that is an important public health consideration.
But the risk varies from location to location, both in the nation as a whole and in individual states.
In some places, it may be safe to reopen schools, colleges and universities toward the end of August. In others, that could set off a deadly outbreak of COVID-19. One size most assuredly does not fit all.
For that reason, Trump should drop his reopening pressure. Period. Governors should take a granular approach, leaving reopening dates up to local school boards and, for state colleges and universities, to the institutions.
COVID-19 has affected different places in different ways, as we have seen in the death toll statistics. Attempting to force the virus to conform to our normal schedules could kill tens of thousands of people.