Reopening schools: A dangerous threat to children and teachers

Kids line up for a food distribution during the coronavirus pandemic. (Ajay Kumar/SOPA Images/Getty Images)
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By STEVE R. JOHNSON

Plans to reopen schools are being questioned by the international working class as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread across the world. These plans are part of the mad rush of capitalist nations to re-open their economies, disregarding the health of the children and the working class of their respective societies.

The novel coronavirus has been shown to be transmissible by children, according two recent scientific research studies. The first study was recently published in the journal Science. It analyzed children in Wuhan and Shanghai, China. The researchers concluded that children were about 35 percent as susceptible to COVID-19 infection as adults, but with the large number of contacts students have daily with other children while they are in school, they had 300 percent more chance to become infected. The study concluded that closing schools could reduce the chance of spread of coronavirus by 40–60 percent. The second study, led by German virologist Christian Drosten, tested adults and children. Their research indicated that children who tested positive are just as infectious as adults.

That schools in the United States, Israel, Finland, France and other Western nations are opening or are scheduling the re-opening of schools, even when their respective nations have been unable and unwilling to significantly reduce the number of Covid-19 deaths in their countries, demonstrates the lack of scientific planning these nations possess in tackling the pandemic. Additionally, it shows the intrinsic values of these capitalist nations with regard to the care and safety of children within their societies. Such a lack of concern for the future of humanity cries out for universal condemnation.

Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock declared on May 7 that Montana was ‘safe’ for school reopening. Schools in Three Forks, Troy, Glasgow, and Libby have re-opened. But the districts did not hold “school” as it is commonly known. News reports indicate that some schools held “study halls” with teachers present for tutoring only, while others opened for students without computers and internet access. Although it is reported that hand washing and hand sanitizing stations were available at one school, it is unknown what personal protection measures had been taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to monitor their effectiveness.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has support this drive. AFT president Randi Weingarten announced the union’s “Plan to Safely Reopen America’s Schools and Communities” wherein the AFT linked the re-opening of the economy to the re-opening of schools. The AFT’s proposal repeated the false notion that “To gradually reopen, we need to maintain physical distancing until the number of new cases declines for at least 14 consecutive days.” But in the U.S. the number of daily new cases of infection over the past two weeks, while slightly declining, has remained in the range of 23,000 to 26,000! And this “decline” is based on 90 percent of the population having not yet been tested.

The AFT’s criteria, essentially matched by the Trump administration’s and major U.S. corporations, for “gradually re-opening” public schools and businesses more generally, would undoubtedly place teachers, other school workers, and students in unimaginable danger.

The Trump administration’s focus on re-opening schools and businesses without having Covid-19 death and infection rates under qualitatively greater control, and the decision of some US governors to support Trump’s proposals, are tragic examples of the dire need for working people to organize and fight to challenge capitalism’s inherent subordination of human life to capitalist profits. The working class, including teachers and the communities they serve, will undoubtedly be in the forefront of the struggles for the socialist future.

Opening the economy and opening schools when the coronavirus is far from under control, is tantamount to sentencing students, teachers and school staff to years of illness and death due to capitalist greed and its disregard for human life and suffering.

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