The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Stevens

Opinion: Responsible return to classroom needs to happen Jan. 18


Last updated 12/26/2020 at 1:13pm

Yes, there will probably be a post-Christmas surge of COVID-19 cases across eastern New Mexico and the nation.

But that won't be a reason to keep public schools closed to the public.

The only reason to keep students from in-person learning next month is the same over-abundance of caution government officials have employed to “keep us safe” since the virus appeared in the spring.

It hasn't worked. Government can't keep us safe. We have to keep ourselves safe. And we have to learn to do that in public spaces.

New Mexico has already determined public schools cannot return to in-person instruction until at least Jan. 18. That's long enough. It's time to get back to class after that.

An editorial published on the political website The Hill offers this logical reasoning:

“COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, possibly for several years. It's time we started building plans within our public education system to deliver in-person instruction safely during the pandemic.”

For those unfamiliar, The Hill is widely recognized for its efforts to report political news - even its opinion pieces -- from a “non-partisan” perspective. In other words, it's not a mouthpiece for the Left or the Right.

The editorial continued:

“Black and Brown children, as well as those from low-income backgrounds and children with special needs, are paying the greatest price for the current school closures. Families of means are enrolling in private schools for in-person instruction, hiring private tutors for learning 'pods' and have the professional flexibility to support distance learning more effectively. As a result, learning is less and less equitable.

“At the same time, data show that schools are not likely to be high transmission risk sites when reopened right. Studies in Europe, South Korea and Australia show that schools can reopen safely with limited risk of school-based community spread. … This is because mask wearing, social distancing, proper ventilation and robust contact tracing work.”

Eastern New Mexico needs only to look a few miles east for evidence that in-person learning can be safe. Texas schools in Parmer and Bailey counties have been open since August. Heading into Christmas break, the counties combined had fewer than 160 active COVID-19 cases; not school cases, but total cases throughout the counties.

Most of the evidence we have comparing online learning with in-person instruction is anecdotal. Almost all of it suggests online learning has been a failure, mostly because students are less engaged.

No one is suggesting it's time to “get back to normal” and let nature take its course with regard to COVID. That's ridiculous. But we've learned this past nine months that the virus is most dangerous for older people, especially those with compromised immune systems. Common sense says we can responsibly reopen our schools.

— David Stevens



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