Reopening Schools in the Fall will Lead us into a Pitfall


USA Today

Schools such as this one in Georgia are clearly not equipped to hold the student population without possible contamination.

Many people have been anxious to return to an in-person learning style since schools officially temporarily closed in May. FUSD, among others, has looked into whether or not Fremont students should go back to school, using surveys including parents, students, and teachers to make a decision. Schools should not reopen because Fremont still has many cases and opening schools right now may lead us into a third wave. 

As of October 20, 2020, Fremont has 4,428 cases and opening schools will rapidly increase the spread of the virus. Irvington has a population of around 2,100 students, and accommodating even a portion of them would be difficult to do safely in Irvington’s tight hallways and classrooms. The coronavirus’ airborne nature allows it to spread very quickly if people are closer together; according to the CDC people would need to maintain a two meter distance while in hallways and desks surrounded by physical barriers to safely distance students. In addition, opening schools could be extremely risky for teachers who live with high risk family members, such as their grandparents or elderly parents. Coming to school everyday and interacting with 30 students per period, even socially-distanced, would create a high risk of transmission, making it especially dangerous when they go home. Further, FUSD mentioned at the beginning of the school year that unless Alameda county has zero cases for a week, schools will not reopen. Since then, no new methods of safe in-person learning have come up, making it best to stick with that statement to avoid confusion amongst families and teachers that have adjusted to distance learning. 

Another factor to consider is preventing another wave of COVID-19. If citizens of Fremont collectively make an effort to practice social distancing, the coronavirus cases may decrease and allow schools to reopen. This has already begun to occur; Fremont recently moved from the red tier to the orange tier, which encouraged the reopening of a few places such as restaurants with outdoor seating and gyms. Moving into the orange tier means that Alameda County met the state mandated metric of 1 to 3.9 cases per day. However, opening schools so prematurely after this slight improvement could just cause an exponential increase in cases which would be avoided by waiting for another few months. In late June, after COVID-19 cases decreased, the government allowed restaurants, malls, and other recreational areas to open up which greatly increased our coronavirus cases and brought them to a peak (12,162 cases) on July 20. To avoid sparking a third wave like we did with the second wave in June, schools should remain closed.

A large motivator to reopen schools is to protect those who rely on school resources and services such as meals, lunch kits, or technology. While it is true these services are essential, FUSD schools do provide nutrition services through FUSD Child Nutrition Services, where students can pick up breakfast and lunch on the school campus. The school homepage provides a variety of organizations to call to provide easier access to meals, as well as the option of free or reduced-price meals to those in need of it. Additionally, going back to school right now would likely mean that lunch distribution/ meals would be limited, which may not help those in need nearly as much as just staying home and utilizing the lunch options the school provides now. As for technology, the school provides computers, chargers, headsets, routers, and other technologies to those who require a computer for distance learning or a WiFi router to access the internet. 

Although distance-learning has brought a great change in the learning environment for all students, teachers and parents, it is in the best interest of the safety of staff and students to continue distance-learning until Fremont is able to decrease their coronavirus cases.