The Blue and Red Approach to Reopening Schools

Which is the safest and most effective?

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As Covid-19 cases continue to grow, as does the arguments between Democrats and Republicans who differ when deciding what possible solutions look like.

Lucia Chico, Staff Writer

The United States has become the epicenter of Coronavirus with over 4.8 million confirmed cases. Thus, state governments around the country struggle to get re-opening guidelines right as there seems to be no universal national plan in place. With the upcoming school year well on its way, governors now have the added pressure of figuring out a plan for reopening schools; finding it difficult to come up with a strategy to ensure all faculty and student’s safety while simultaneously not halting learning. When looking closely at the situation, it is evident that health concerns like these have become highly politicized. The trends of reopening plans are closely tied with each individual state’s predominant political party, causing there to be only two paths for reopening: the republican in-person path or the democrat online model path, both receiving heavy criticism from opposing political parties. Though all reopening plans are currently under fire, it is clear that the similar plans being implemented by democratic governors, are the safest, most effective way to educate America’s youth under difficult circumstances like that of COVID-19.

It can be challenging to identify solid trends in reopening plans given that each state has been hit by COVID-19 differently and holds its own ideals. In the liberal or blue states, like California and New York that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, school will begin completely online for the larger school districts or hybrid for districts that have a significantly lower infection rate. In other liberal states where cases didn’t rise at an alarming rate like Vermont and Illinois, they are looking forward to a socially distanced, in-person school year where all students and staff members will be required to wear a mask and have symptom and temperature screenings. All the states aforementioned have a remote learning plan already prepared in case there is a Fall outbreak of the virus.

“While we’re not opening with face-to-face schooling, a lot can be achieved with the new online platforms. Government officials must attempt to keep the population safe without political influence.” sophomore Ralph Sands said.

Due to President Trump’s constant push for the full reopening of schools, many Republican governors have chosen to go that route. By looking at some of the most conservative states in the country, it can be seen that their plans for reopening are quite similar to what the Trump administration has been promoting. Betsy Devos, the current secretary of education, supports Trump’s arguments for reopening schools while ignoring the scientific data highlighting the spike in cases if schools return in person at maximum capacity. President Trump recently issued a claim that they will cut federal funds from states that do not fully reopen.

In all of these states, they will start this school year with in-person instruction, maintaining physical distance and only recommending students to wear masks. In Wyoming, the most conservative state in America, up to 50 students will be allowed together in a space while physically distanced. Though policies like these seem dangerous, these states are also including some precautions in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, including: putting up of signs that remind students to keep distance and wash their hands, setting up methods of dismissal to minimize crowds, and preparing a distant learning model in case of outbreaks; Tennessee will even go as far as symptom screening their students daily in order to return to school in person. However, even if these states implement plans like these, it will still not be enough to stop another large outbreak  of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all school districts take a low-to-medium-risk approach to reopening: beginning school virtually or utilizing a hybrid model so that social distance and mask requirements can be maintained.

To add on to the issues with returning to school in-person, an image of a crowd of students  in a hallway at a Georgia high school went viral because none of the students were wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. It is now known that six students and three staff members from that school have tested positive, proving that conservative plans like those mentioned above will not be enough. Despite this, Florida’s Republican governor continuing to push for in-person learning like other heavily red states. However, Miami-Dade County–the epicenter of the state– is taking an approach similar to that of California’s largest districts; with many parents, faculty, and students expressing that virtual school is a necessary precaution to take because of the extremely high rates of COVID-19.

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I think if districts cared about their students, school would not be in person. We need to starve this disease.”

— senior Daniela Parra del Riego said

We are now living in a new America; one where even public health and education has become political. Our nation is unable to combat this life-threatening virus that has changed the lives of so many. It is truly is concerning that those in power rather risk the safety of America’s youth in order to receive government funding and even more concerning that the president and the secretary of education would even threaten to cut federal funding if schools don’t reopen in-person. The majority of red states are using baseless arguments that ignore science in order to get their way.