According to the California Department of Public Health, California currently has 148,855 cases of COVID-19, as of June 13, with L.A. County having daily increases of more than 1,000 cases.
Despite these numbers, Los Angeles County on Wednesday, June 5, announced that fitness facilities, pro-league arenas, camps, museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums, swimming pools and more will be allowed to reopen Friday, according to the L.A. Times.
However, what shocked me the most was the following: in addition to those public facilities, schools — from day camps to high schools — were also now able to reopen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection proposed guidelines to keep students safe at all times. According to AP, the guidance includes keeping the students 6 feet apart, installing “portable hand-washing stations,” staggering arrival times to minimize contact between students and staff and disinfecting classrooms daily.
These guidelines, though, are only practical on paper and can not be properly processed once they are in-action.
To begin, keeping students 6 feet apart from one another is an impossibility when it comes to enormous public schools across California school districts. To use Arnold O. Beckman High School as an example, according to Niche, Beckman currently has 2,987 students enrolled from ninth to twelfth grade. With each classroom having more than 30 students and with classes in general always being maxed out, it is almost impossible to separate students 6 feet apart without expanding the school itself or cutting students from classes with limited spaces.
This will eventually lead to putting the learning at a cost to “protect” the students. Alongside, according to EdSource, Gov. Newsom proposed an 8% budget cut to K-12 funding, meaning schools would lose around $1 billion in total with last year’s budget being $14.3 billion. This will make it even more difficult to employ these guidelines without lessening the funds for actual educational purposes –– once again putting students’ education at a cost.
In addition, the portable hand-washing stations are essentially meaningless as school officials can not effectively keep track of whether students are staying hygienic. I personally believe that teachers requiring the use of hand sanitizers prior to entering the classrooms have more practical applications for keeping students protected.
There also had been real-life examples of why schools should not be reopened amid cases rising: one example is South Korea.
According to the Washington Post, on May 25, South Korea reopened all schools, taking strict measures to limit contact between students. Students were separated by plastic dividers in classrooms, cafeteria and bathrooms. Markings were clear, keeping students 6 feet apart even when getting in line to receive cafeteria food or in line to head into the school’s office.
Despite these measures, according to the Korea Times, one high school student on June 7 tested positive for COVID-19, closing all schools across the country once again; there have also been other cases of teachers testing positive for elementary schools.
South Korea has been praised for its decisive measures of tackling COVID-19. With cases under the number of 12,000, South Korea still remains safer than the U.S., which has around $2 million cases in total according to the CDC. Therefore, I believe that if South Korea with much fewer K-12 students than the U.S. had to close all schools once again for discovering numerous students with COVID-19, America may face similar or worse problems when schools reopen.
High school students also spoke out on this issue.
“I don’t feel safe to go back to school just yet,” Gina Lee, a rising senior at Arnold O. Beckman High School said. “Researchers have proven that masks don’t protect us from the virus completely, so there always is a possibility that I may be infected by a classmate nearby.”
“Especially now, with people who will go to the gym, beaches, and countless other populated public areas, I would not feel safe to go back to school,” Rena Lee, another rising senior at Beckman said. “I’d rather continue with distance learning until a vaccine is proposed or the cases are increasing significantly slower.”
I agree with these students. While reopening schools and trying to establish normal life is something that many of us look forward to, public schools should think thoroughly before reopening their institutions as one mistake can lead to countless facing danger.