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Getting Kids Back to Class

Roman Catholic schools in West Virginia and some public school systems in East Ohio are planning to have students in classrooms five days a week when the new academic year begins. Yet most Mountain State public schools are planning “blended” schedules, often with just two days a week of in-person instruction — for students whose parents are comfortable sending children to school at all.

What gives? Why the enormous difference in plans? If Catholic students and East Ohio youngsters can attend classes safely for five days a week, why can’t West Virginia public schools do the same?

No one can say with certainty what the situation will be in a few weeks, of course. The best-laid plans of all educators may not pan out if the COVID-19 epidemic grows worse in our area.

But as soon as possible, all students need to get back to the five-day routine. They learn more in classrooms. And, as has been pointed out, many parents rely on schools as day-care facilities so mom and dad can go to work.

What we thought we knew about COVID-19 when schools were shut down late last winter has evolved. At that time, it appeared that sending children to school was dangerous for both them and adults.

There is some risk, but not nearly to the extent once believed. Of the about 160,000 Americans who have died from the disease, only 20 have been in the 5-14 age group that covers most students. During the duration of the epidemic, fewer than 1% of the deaths of Americans in that category have been from COVID-19. In the same age group for the same period, 86 deaths from simple pneumonia have been recorded.

In addition, it appears the risk of children contracting the virus but remaining asymptomatic and transmitting it to adults is far lower than had been thought.

Still, the thought of even one child perishing from COVID-19 is heart-wrenching, and that explains the abundance of caution being displayed by many school officials.

The sooner children can get back to school five days a week, the better. Perhaps watching the experience of Catholic schools and those in East Ohio with five-day schedules will help public school leaders in West Virginia make the transition. Let us all hope and pray the new school year goes well for each and every one of our precious youngsters.

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