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There never was evidence or scientific data that in-person schooling presented an elevated virus threat for students, faculty, or staff warranting schools’ prolonged closure – no evidence whatsoever. In fact, it was clear even before the traditional school year’s start that children and young adults were far less likely to be infected with COVID or to be severely impacted if they became infected.
So, was the response by teachers’ unions and bureaucratic school administrators to reopen but with common-sense health and safety measures in place, so students were not kept away from teachers, classmates, and all the other benefits in-school learning provides? Of course not. Their response was to put on blinders, ignore common sense and hard evidence, and remain…closed.
There does now seem to be a glimmer of hope that this close-mindedness is softening slightly. The New York City public school system, for example, plans to open soon for in-person classes, at least for elementary students. The timing of this about-face, and whether it actually will remain in-place, are questions still on the table, and parents should continue to demand to know why it took the teachers and school administrators so long to admit what everyone else knew months ago. Even more important, parents should demand accountability, including firing teachers and bureaucrats for the waste of money caused by their bad decisions, and for the damage inflicted on the students as a result.
Waiting for any apology by those self-serving public officials would be a waste of time. As with other fear-driven public policy decisions made in response to the pandemic, refusals to open schools for in-person teaching were nothing more than partisan footballs to be kicked around by the National Education Association and its state affiliates, hoping President Trump and Republican governors who wanted to open schools sooner rather than later would look foolish.
Students, not politicians, of course, have been the real victims in this debacle, as partisan politics overrode their interests and those of their parents, many of whom struggled to keep their jobs while overseeing children forced to stay at home “learning” in front of a computer screen.
The problems resulting from this partisan short-sightedness are not trivial. It is estimated that delayed school openings this year will cost the average student seven months of learning; even more for black students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. For all the pre-COVID talk about how increased school funding is needed to close the “educational gap” between students from poor and wealthy backgrounds, the decision to keep schools closed will cause lasting, if not permanent, damage to students who already are the most disadvantaged. This problem has been well-known in academic circles, but in the current context is simply ignored by Democrat school administrators and unionized teachers because it does not fit their partisan agenda.
Now, when outrage from parents can