There's a clear, scientific path to safely reopening schools. The real barrier now is politics.
Students of primary school go to Godley, Texas, on August 5.
Pictures LM Otero/AP
Studies suggest that schools can safely resume learning in person if they rely on masks and distance.
But this was made difficult by a few major political obstacles.
Some districts are not implementing mask policies.
Others lack funding to provide teachers and staff with a safe environment.
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Research now clearly supports the idea that schools can restart individual education in the United States safely.
In a January study in 11 North Carolina school districts, just 32 coronaviral infections were reported in schools over 9 weeks.
The Minimal Transmission Report of Disease Control and Prevention Centers among K-12 schools in Wood County, Wisconsin was detected.
CDC researchers called for the reopening of schools with a few guidelines in an opinion last month: masks should be worn at all times.
Social distancing should be maintained.
Indoor sports and competitions should be limited.
However, there are a few political obstacles in the way.
Firstly, many school districts in America lack the resources required to upgrade air systems for their schools, to periodically test teachers and staff, or to decrease their classroom size so that students sit at 6 feet apart – steps that would allow parents and teachers more comfortable with personal learning.
The CDC threshold for complete in-person training is also difficult to achieve in most counties right now, since low levels of group transmission are required.
This means that reopenings have been postponed in certain countries even though they are comparatively safe for students and teachers.
And there is the long-lasting issue of mask resistance.
Classrooms are now available in states like Georgia or Iowa, but many school districts have not implemented strict mask policies.
This leaves the possibility of infection for students and teachers, and infections could cause schools to shut down again.
"We've had a lot of issues with reopening based on science," Kavita Patel, a non-resident Brookings Institution fellow, told Insider.
"I'd love to see a world where there is a little bit more of a practical engagement of the states and mayors with the scientists."
On August 24, students return to studying in person in Orange, California.
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange Coonty Pictures
Polarization of policies on school masks
According to Daniel Benjamin, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Duke University, the reopening of schools in two camps has deteriorated increasingly: there is either general lack of protective precautions or too much resistance to harm.
Benjamin said to Insider on one side of the spectrum, "you have schools that are paralyzed by fear."
"They just don't have the political will to open, despite the fact that if you do mitigation strategies it's safer for kids and adults to be in school than to be in the community," Benjamin said.
Then at the other end is the party.
Benjamin said, "They don't believe in masking.
"We don't have a board backup, they don't have the superintendent's backup, parents complain that the children don't wear a mask at school. It doesn't mask classrooms, it isn't, it's risky.
A child artist takes off her mask before posing for a portrait on 23 September at the Rogers International School in Stamford, Connecticut.
John Moore/Getty Images
A November study by ProPublica showed that 11 states did not mandate students to wear masks except at indoor or athletic activities.
Benjamin proposed that schools use facial coverings as a reward for studying in person.
"It's super simple: If you don't want to mask, we have an alternative for you. You can learn remotely," he said.
"Schools that are closed right now can really leverage that as a part of reopening."
Lack of security programs funding
President Joe Biden has developed the aim of reopening most K-8 public schools in his first 100 days – at the end of April.
His planned coronavirus relief will devote $130 billion to help primary schools reopen under appropriate protections.
In mid-March, Congress will vote on the final rule.
The money could be used by schools to increase airflow, minimize class size, recruit more janitors, distribute staff protective equipment or change social distance classroom layouts.
Until reopening, many schools wait for this money to stop placing teachers or other workers at risk.
Teachers' union around the country has pressed for security guarantees before personal apprenticeships – that the classrooms are well ventilated, the transmission into the environment is minimal or that school workers have more access to vaccinations.
Teachers, parents, and children marching for public schools in Brooklyn, New York.
Earlier this month, teachers in Philadelphie hosted outdoor simulated classes in freezing weather to oppose the city's reopening program, with the usage of windows and fans to circulate dirt, instead of artificial ventilation.
Chicago teachers have resisted reporting to schools until the city meets their safety standards, such as regular clean-up and permission to continue to operate remotely for teachers with highly-risk family members.
And in Montclair, New Jersey, the teachers' association called on all educators to be vaccinated before the individual learning started.
The longer schools wait for their safety plans to be formulated and enforced, the greater the cost for children.
Lack of access to school meals has raised the risk of food poverty for millions of families, a study released in October's American Public Health News.
An study by the McKinsey & Company indicated that, on average, American students would miss five to nine months of schooling due to the pandemic by June.
A study released in November showed that in 3rd- to 8th-grade mathematical performance was 5-10% lower than prior to the pandemic.
"This is all expected and known when you have kids out of school for an entire year - millions of kids - that there would be devastating consequences," said NPR Chief Joseph Allen last week.
"And our country has not treated it like the emergency it is."
Strict reopening guidance for the CDC
The CDC recommendations on whether to return to school for children represent yet another problem for reopening districts.
The organization requires that counties have less than 50 cases of COVID 19 a week per 100,000 individual or test positive rates below 8 percent before K-12 schools are completely re opened - often challenging to meet thresholds.
While cases decrease across the United States, there are still 14 countries with optimistic rates above 8 percent, and the New York Times shows that 35 states average 105 cases per 100,000 people per week.
"Wake-up call to parents: If schools start following this new guidance strictly, kids are not getting back to full-time school," Allen told NPR.
Many countries may not have priority constraints that may benefit lower cases, allowing schools a greater chance of compliance with the requirements of the CDC.
Restaurants and bars are open in much of the world, locations that can easily promote the transmission of coronavirus.
Experts from infectious diseases say that makes no sense.
"As we look at the school setting itself, it's somewhere that you can have some control over whether kids are wearing masks and whether kids are physically distanced," said Insider, Dr. Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist of the University of Florida, noting that outside school events will potentially support transmitting.
Godley primary school children who take a class.
The CDC's own guidelines state that "K-12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community have been employed, and the first to reopen when they can do so safely."
However, some states have reopened schools without the guidance or the threshold of the CDC.
K-12 schools in Iowa with a test positive rate of approximately 13 percent are needed last week to provide in-person learning for those students who wish to return to class.
Arkansas, Florida and Texas have ordered schools to allow students to return to their homelands.
Andrew Dunn's reporting contributed.
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