Commentary across the spectrum is demanding schools reopen

Kids have suffered grievously over the past year: lousy remote “learning,” lost routines and social lives, spiraling mental illness. Most of the blame lies with teachers ­unions that refuse to return to the classroom, despite all evidence that schools aren’t COVID spreaders, and politicians beholden to Big ­Labor, not least President Biden. Yet a rising chorus of voices — left, right and center — is demanding full-time, in-person instruction:

Conservative: No Excuse

“Every major excuse for keeping schools closed . . . is crumbling before our eyes,” cheers National Review’s Robert Verbruggen. For one thing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has come out for reopening schools — including under the Biden regime. A paper by CDC scientists published after Biden’s inauguration concluded that “there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.” Plus, research continues to reaffirm scientists’ early finding that kids transmit the virus at a much lower rate than do adults. “Every halfway plausible reason to close schools is either dead or dying. Let’s reopen them already.”

A parent holding a sign in support of reopening schools at a protest outside of City Hall in Manhattan on February 3, 2021.
A parent holding a sign in support of reopening schools at a protest outside of City Hall in Manhattan on February 3, 2021.
Robert Miller

Progressive: Fed Up

“It’s our kids’ mental health that’s the real emergency,” warns Rebecca Bodenheimer, a self-described “progressive parent,” at Medium. “All over the country, mental-health emergencies and hospital visits by kids are skyrocketing. The prolonged isolation, depression and anxiety that stem from learning by yourself on a computer all day are taking a massive toll on kids who haven’t seen the inside of a school for ­almost a year.” Compare our situation to that in Europe, where governments prioritized reopening schools, and it is unthinkable how ours “is an acceptable state of ­affairs for a developed country.”

Doctors: Do No Harm

At The Daily Beast, physicians Jeffrey Klausner and Rajiv Bhatia write: “With an increased understanding that children are much less likely to be infected, less likely to become severely ill, less likely to spread infection, we should feel less afraid of opening schools and summer programs and more ready to let our children return to their normal lives.” Early on, when our understanding of the disease was limited, shuttering schools made sense. Yet now we know much more, and “a first principle of public health is to take the least restrictive means necessary to protect as many people as possible. Another is to do no harm. The closure of schools and summer programs are harmful. . . . Ignoring new evidence and reinforcing fears is a disservice to our society.”

Libertarian: Hear Parents

The New York Times recently claimed that a majority of parents in large cities have declined ­in-person instruction — an assertion that is both technically true and thoroughly “misleading,” counters Reason’s Matt Welch. Why? Most urban schools “have not included full-time, in-person learning as an option” in the first place. “What parents are rejecting is the ‘hybrid’ model — some days in, some days remote, classes or schools always subject to reclose.” So what do parents want? “Education Next, a publication of Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance, surveyed 2,155 parents of 3,762 students in K-12 (both public and private) in November and December, and found that only 41 percent had been offered the possibility of full-time instruction.” Of those offered full-time, in-person schooling, more than two-thirds took it.

Parents protesting school closures at City Hall in Manhattan on February 3, 2021.
Parents protesting school closures at City Hall in Manhattan on February 3, 2021.
Robert Miller

The right: Nonessential?

“Some schools around the nation are prolonging closures for more than a year after they were first shut down,” seethes The Federalist’s Jordan Davidson. Newark, NJ, is a case in point. “While the Newark school district originally planned to reopen multiple times . . . pressure from the district’s teachers union has kept students at home for virtual learning.” Pathetic: “Instead of prioritizing the needs of students,” these districts “continue to negotiate and renegotiate with staff over a virus that does not have a higher rate of spread within schools than it does within other community settings deemed ‘essential.’ ” Or are teachers suggesting schools are nonessential?

Epidemiologist: Enough!

At Vox, epidemiologist Benjamin Linas declares: “Schools, it turns out, with a few basic safety measures, including masks and reasonable distancing, are not a high-risk venue for COVID-19 transmission.” Yes, teacher anxieties are “real. . . . But I also know that America needs to have its schools open for in-person learning, and there are safe, affordable ways to do this — right now.”

— Compiled by Sohrab Ahmari

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