An urgent need exists to reopen schools soon, and this can be done safely, a report indicates.
The Walton Family Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and five other nonprofits paid for the report published in March and will be presented to Congress. The report examined the findings from more than 120 studies that were done over this past year due to public schools’ nationwide closures. The studies covered a wide range of topics, including risks for children, transmissibility concerns, and the impact of school reopenings on community spread—this led to the study about how schools can reopen and do so safely.
This also shows the importance of children being in school. Children using distance learning need to weigh the “academic and social-emotional costs” that affect the lives of students and families during school closures.
The study shows it is essential to weigh the cost of mental health, including “learning loss, declines in mental health, and the economic impact on families,” which is shown to have negative effects that could last for years after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
The majority of research studied suggested children only comprise a small portion of coronavirus cases. Showing children who do develop symptoms has a less severe case and shows low mortality rates among the overall population. According to the report, attending school does not increase the risk for children as long as the health guidelines are followed.
Transmission rates are based on the different community spread:
Evidence points to schools mirroring the transmission rates of their communities. Schools themselves do not appear to drive community transmission. High school students are more likely to contract and spread infection, but there is considerably less risk in grade school children.
The study lays out the guidelines to follow for safely reopening schools:
Protective measures such as mask wearing, physically distancing, increasing hygiene regimens, and improving ventilation add layers of protection that can mitigate risks for students and school staff. COVID-19 vaccinations, symptomatic testing and isolating potentially infected individuals, and asymptomatic COVID-19 screening tests offer additional preventive benefits.
The study shows the report can be a starting point for evidence-based conversations regarding reopening schools, in addition to more research becoming available as time goes on. Noting that “managing the uncertainty and risks created by new variants of the coronavirus requires doubling down on proven mitigation measures and protocols.”
The study found school closures should be the last resort for state and local leaders, which should make reopening schools “as quickly and safely as possible” a top priority.