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Opinion: We’re talking about reopening schools when the only option is to close them. Great

Schools closed
First-grade teacher Caitlin Hicks gives a “virtual hug” as students at Center Street Elementary in El Segundo pick up their work from the last school year on June 3.
(Los Angeles Times)

In a span of four months, restaurant dining rooms closed, reopened, then reclosed. The same goes for bars, gyms and other businesses that were shut down abruptly in March and restarted in May, even though COVID-19 was nowhere close to being contained.

But public schools? They’re arguably the most indispensable institutions in our communities, and scarcely one month before classes are set to begin we’re finally getting around to discussing whether students will be able to return to campus — and really only because districts in Los Angeles and San Diego announced earlier this week that their schools will remain closed indefinitely, and because the White House and the Orange County Board of Education have staked out the opposite position.

In other words, we’re being forced into a discussion that should have started the moment students were sent home in March. That discussion picked up this week on the L.A. Times letters page, with most readers calling for campuses to remain closed. One letter drew a particularly strong reaction from readers — it was from a physician who advocated that schools reopen.

Here are some of those responses.

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Arcadia resident Donald S. Burnett gets his wish:

The L.A. Times Editorial Board rejected the Orange County Board of Education’s argument that children are not carriers of COVID-19. However, that position was challenged in a letter by Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, who said the science does not support you.

He points out that many European countries have opened schools, but he fails to note that they do not have rapidly increasing rates of hospitalization. He concludes with a challenge to read the “latest German study on COVID-19 infections among schoolchildren and teachers.”

His statements contradict everything I have read. On Saturday, you often publish commentary on other letters; I recommend Dr. Brant-Zawadzki as a subject for discussion.

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Jimmie Robertson of Laguna Niguel also thinks we should follow the science:

I noticed that a physician said we need to follow the science on reopening schools. He talked about schoolchildren from Europe and the very low infection rates within their group.

But he never mentioned our infection rate in this country. Maybe the doctor should take his own advice and follow the science.

Phil Brimble of Los Angeles wants to know what teachers think:

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I suspect a lot of people have no clue regarding “distance learning,” trying to teach in the times of pandemic, or what problems can arise in classrooms.

Maybe, just maybe, the people to ask are teachers?

Lots of politicians have ideas that they seem to pull out of a hat. Anyone can spew nonsense. Maybe some in-depth articles that focus on classroom professionals would help.

Couldn’t hurt.

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Anita Roglich of Santa Monica suggests a compromise:

The science says that younger children are the least likely to be affected by COVID-19. So why don’t we open elementary schools first? We can see how that goes and make adjustments for the older kids later.

Younger children are the most burdensome on parents, since older children are more adept at online learning and entertaining themselves.

I don’t understand why it seems to be all or nothing on schools.


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