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EDITORIAL: Follow the science: Reopen CCSD

Updated November 24, 2020 - 9:12 pm

The evidence overwhelmingly supports reopening schools. Too bad, a majority of Clark County School District trustees aren’t willing to follow the science.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Jesus Jara presented a plan for beginning in-person instruction. He proposed returning children to the classroom two days a week, starting in January. There was also an option for parents to choose to continue full-time distance learning.

It was a detailed and thorough path forward. Trustees, however, didn’t even vote on it. Schools are closed at least through the end of the year. Now, Mr. Jara is warning that continued school closures could lead to around 1,500 layoffs of support staff workers. Shuttered school buildings significantly reduce the need for janitorial staff and bus drivers, to put it mildly.

None of this would be necessary if trustees looked at data from other districts that have reopened. In October, when schools were partially reopened, New York City officials tested more 70,000 students and teachers. Fewer than 110 students and staff tested positive. That was a lower rate than in the broader community. Students and teachers may have been safer in schools.

Florida’s schools reopened this fall. From August to October, cases among children ages 5 to 17 dropped by one-third. Schools also haven’t been superspreader factories, as some feared. Among elementary schools that experienced one case, the average number of cases was only 2.17. For high school, it’s 5.55.

Teachers haven’t been put at greater risk either. Among schools that had at least one student infected, fewer than 18 percent had any teachers who tested positive for the virus, according to reason.com.

It’s not just the United States. Countries around the world, including France, the United Kingdom and Italy, have successfully prioritized reopening schools.

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has pushed for harsh economic restrictions, thinks differently about schools. You want to “keep the schools open if you possibly can,” he said during a CNN interview.

Research suggests distance learning is doing substantial academic damage. In Washington, D.C., the number of first-graders meeting literacy targets dropped by 12 percentage points compared with last year. The consulting firm McKinsey projected that students will lose between three months to a year’s worth of learning.

Mental health is a concern, too. At his Sunday news conference, Gov. Steve Sisolak said youth suicides have increased this fall, including an 8-year-old taking his or her own life. That’s an unfathomable tragedy and a devastating reminder that the coronavirus isn’t the only ongoing public health crisis.

Mr. Jara is following the evidence and working to reopen schools. Now, he needs four board members to do the same.

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