Return of children to school? American academics have indicated where the safe border lies

Big idea

The authors of the commentary base their conclusions on data from the US states of Michigan and Washington from September to December 2020, which allowed individual districts to decide whether to allow full-time education, which shows how each decision affected the number of coronavirus infections in the area.

This is difficult to determine because other factors may be to blame, such as restricting contacts and wearing veils, “admit economists and data analysts. They point out that it may seem that full-time teaching leads to the spread of covid-19, but in reality this is due to compliance or absence of security measures, especially if a particular area is more willing to send pupils back to school.

Iberman, Strunk, and Goldhaber sought to address this by including in the statistical analysis information such as the rate of veil wear in the area and the political orientation of the district in the 2016 election, which is an important factor because Republicans appear to be less pro-epidemiological than Democrats. , as well as more support for full – time teaching despite the pandemic.

Academics have found that coronavirus is likely to spread to some extent in schools, but its spread may simply replicate what is happening in a given locality, and children and teachers may not be more likely to become infected in a school building than elsewhere.

Why is it important?

Most of the (surveyed) districts closed the gates of local schools in March and did not open them for the rest of the school year, instead offering distance learning to pupils, “the authors of the commentary continue. They emphasize that at the same time there is growing evidence that distance learning does not work very well, especially for pupils from low-income families and families of ethnic minorities.

Given these challenges, many Michigan and Washington districts decided to offer hybrid instruction in the fall, but as the number of Covid-19 cases began to grow, some – around Chicago, for example – face a difficult choice of whether to actually open or leave schools, Iberman said. , Strunková and Goldhaber. They add that so far the authorities have not had data on which to base their decisions, so their study is the first scientific basis on which American politicians can operate in their difficult decisions.

What do we still not know?

The trio provide concrete estimates that the number of covid-19 cases is so high that school opening will contribute to the further spread of the virus, but warns that such a move should be approached with caution, as statistical estimates may be erroneous.

It is not important to focus on a specific number, but to understand that there is a limit to where full-time teaching begins to contribute to the community spread of coronavirus, the authors of the comment declare. They add that the way schools work and what safety measures to take probably also plays a role.

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For example, schools can return (to the benches) only some of the students, require the wearing of veils and maintain a distance of several meters between the benches, “experts write. He believes that such measures are likely to reduce the transmission of the virus, but it is not possible to assess how much they actually help, as information on the regulations of individual schools and their possible compliance is not available.

What other research is underway?

Several studies on how covid-19 affects learning have been made, recall Iberman, Strunk, and Goldhaber. They note that the conclusions show that the pandemic is damaging much more to the education of pupils from low-income families and ethnic minorities.

However, there has been no significant research into how covid-19 spreads in schools, the authors point out. They point out that, according to one study, there is a link between school closures last spring and a decrease in coronavirus deaths, but at that time other measures were taken to reduce people-to-people contacts, so the role of school closures is not entirely clear.

A new study of the development of hospitalizations came to similar conclusions as those brought by Iberman, Strunková and Goldhaber. These are that full-time education leads to more hospitalizations if there are generally a large number of diseases in the locality, but no correlation can be found between full-time education and the number of patients in hospitals if the number of diseases in the area is generally low.

Source: EuroZprá by

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