Let’s Hope COVID-19 Stays Far Away From Our Schools, Children

COVID-19 — the coronavirus — has brought everyday life in large areas of China to a near standstill. Schools and factories are closed. The same goes for many other businesses, including retail outlets.

As the virus has spread, other areas have been affected similarly, though not to the extent of China. Italian officials are among others taking drastic steps.

As many as 300 million children in 22 countries have been affected by school closures linked to attempts to keep COVID-19 from spreading, The Associated Press reported this week. Here in the United States, officials in both higher education and lower grades are making contingency plans.

Schools are a germ’s dream, of course. Children with little regard for personal hygiene sneezing into the air, wiping their noses on their hands, then taking colds — or worse — home can be a big problem. Once the first cycle is completed, of course, the kids bring their families’ maladies to school with them.

Closing schools at any level is a serious decision, not just for students’ education but also for parents and other caregivers. If your 9-year-old can’t go to school, someone has to stay home with him or her. That means a missed day’s work — a serious matter for many families.

On the other hand, becoming ground zero for an outbreak of COVID-19 or any other serious disease is not an appealing prospect for educators.

In our area, then, we encourage educators to communicate effectively and continually with public health agencies. Frankly, decisions on whether to keep schools open are best left to the public health professionals. If they recommend closures, classes should be suspended. We’re glad to hear from Dr. Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, that Christine Schuyler, county health commissioner, and County Executive PJ Wendel are keeping area school superintendents apprised of the latest developments with regular conference calls, including a planned call on Friday. And, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools should close for 24 hours if a student is diagnosed with coronavirus. Jamestown’s superintendent said the district is working on a plan to execute that direction if a student were to become ill of the virus and how the district would open its schools the following day.

Any education official at any level who has not begun making contingency plans for closure is not doing his or her job. One appealing alternative to classroom presence is online teaching, already being planned by some at colleges and universities.

We hope COVID-19 stays far enough away from our area that schools do not have to be dismissed until time for summer vacation. But if public health officials recommend keeping the kids at home, so be it. COVID-19 is serious business.


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