Opinion: Impulsive reopening of K-12 schools endangers society

Dozens of maskless students are seen crowding a hallway Aug. 4 at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. A student shot and posted the now viral photo on social media. Nine students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 after one week of instruction. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

By Erik Galicia

By now you may have seen the viral photos of a crowded Georgia high school hallway taken Aug. 4, the first day of the fall semester.

A few students were seen wearing masks. The vast majority were not as they squeezed through the locker-lined walkway in the closest possible proximity to each other. There was absolutely no way they could practice any sort of COVID-19 safety in that environment.

Nine students and staff at North Paulding High School tested positive for the virus after just one week of face-to-face instruction.

How could anyone have expected a different outcome? We all want to return to our normal lives, but the idea of opening schools right now is simply mindless.

The ridiculousness is not unique to Georgia. California parents filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 29 in hopes of forcing the state to allow in-person instruction in K-12 schools.

NBC reported Jesse Petrilla, a plaintiff in the lawsuit with two children, argues the negatives of closed schools outweigh the risk of COVID-19. The suit also cites CDC data that says children below the age of 17 are hospitalized for COVID-19 at a rate far lower than adults.

We are six months into a pandemic that has killed over 773,000 people worldwide. The over 21.8 million COVID-19 cases in the world have established that this virus is highly contagious. Yet, people in America continue to cling to their stubbornness in the name of “freedom.” 

It’s true. Not as many children die from COVID-19 as adults do. But it’s also true that children have died from the virus. Is there anything worse than children dying due to adult negligence?

Most children can easily grasp the concept of how a contagious virus spreads across vast distances. Here’s one way of putting it: Kids without personal protective equipment crowd a school during a deadly pandemic in a state that is rapidly nearing 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus. One kid infects another, which infects another and so on.

Those kids go home, without showing symptoms, and infect the elderly, which constitute the largest percentage of COVID-19 deaths. Some of the asymptomatic infected eventually travel and party with complete disregard for reality. This is not rocket science. There is no academic, scientific, philosophical or political debate to be had at this point. 

Even President Donald Trump, the father of scientific denial, recently began to make masked appearances on national television to admit the validity of the COVID-19 pandemic. What more will it take for the factually-deprived to realize that this pandemic is serious?

Granted, there are a number of valid frustrations over K-12 schools being closed this fall semester. But these frustrations do not amount to valid arguments for reopening schools. Parents across the world are struggling to find childcare while they are away on essential work. Many college students are parents themselves and are experiencing hardship in financially supporting their families and education.

Times are tough for everyone. But the broken record continues. 

As long as the asinine decisions continue, the financial struggles, growing frustrations and avoidable deaths will too.