DAVE ROSS

Harvard Prof: Kids being out of school can have ‘devastating consequences’

Jul 31, 2020, 2:11 PM | Updated: Aug 3, 2020, 7:08 am
coronavirus schools, virtual learning, school...
Fall classes begin this week. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

We have been talking a lot these days about what it will take to get kids back to school, but getting them back for in-person learning means getting school buildings pandemic ready. Joseph Allen is director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and he argues that schools can, and should, reopen. He joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss why.

In Washington state, nearly half of all students could be learning online when fall comes around because the districts have already decided to do fully online learning at the offset. Does he believe leaders in these districts and individual schools are making the wrong call?

“I think, as a country, we have failed dramatically with the responses to coronavirus, and nothing is more in our face than the fact that we can’t get children back to school in August and September,” Allen said. “We have had many months to now prepare. We should have been preparing the second those schools closed, and doing everything in our power to get kids back, including not reopening other sectors of the economy like casinos, and bars, and nightclubs. We should have been prioritizing kids.”

Was the avoidance of a lockdown in Sweden the right move?

That said, he believes we too often overlook the greater cost to kids not being in school, which is not just about them getting an proper education.

“But here’s why it’s important to get kids back: Often we don’t talk about the devastating consequences of them being out of school — massive costs in virtual dropouts where I am in Boston, 10,000 high school kids didn’t make contact at all in the month of May. In Philadelphia, only 50% of elementary school kids make daily contact,” he said.

“Kids were locked down and more sedentary, they’re less social,” he added. “Thirty million-plus kids in this country rely on schools for food, so we have a food security issue. Kids who are home are more likely to suffer from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. So we’re not talking about the big risk of keeping kids out of school.”

Washington schools should reopen because my neighbors’ kids are loud

There have been other countries that have open schools and, unfortunately, it didn’t work out well. In Israel, for instance, they opened schools and then had to shut back down. What can we learn from past mistakes and countries like Israel?

“We have to look at the bigger picture here,” Allen said. “There is no such thing as zero risk. Will there be cases? Yeah, there will be cases. People point to Israel. It’s a country of many millions of school kids and they had a couple hundred (cases). And fortunately, none of those kids died, so they were cases, but none of them suffered severe adverse consequences.”

“If you look at other models across Europe in 22 other countries, they reopened schools and did not have a problem. Same thing in Asia,” he added. “I recognize that in those countries the underlying prevalence of cases is low. … At the same time, even countries that have higher levels of cases have shown that they were able to protect kids while they’re in school and, importantly, teachers. It is not an easy thing. I have kids of my own, I get it. The anxiety from teachers, parents, kids themselves — I understand that nothing about this is easy.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

Trump...
Dave Ross

Ross: Now we know what they were planning

On Monday, it was revealed why former President Donald Trump had every reason to believe he would win the 2020 election.
22 hours ago
trump, secret service...
MyNorthwest Staff

Fahrenthold: Taxpayers paid $1.7 million to protect Trump’s four kids, three officials

There's quite a bit of taxpayer money that went to the Secret Service to protect not just the president, but a bunch of other people as well.
2 days ago
Texas abortion...
Dave Ross

Ross: You get a lawsuit, and you get a lawsuit

The way the Texas law is written, Dr. Braid could be sued hundreds of times, and sued successfully, since he’s basically confessed to providing an abortion.
2 days ago
space...
Dave Ross

Ross: Convincing billionaires that Earth is more exciting than space

Instead of trying to tax billionaires, why not find a way to motivate them to want to spend their money on something besides just space?
3 days ago
school bathrooms...
Dave Ross

Ross: The war on school bathrooms

Kids are vandalizing school bathrooms and posting their mischief on TikTok as some bathroom challenge. Soap dispensers, sinks, and toilets are gone.
6 days ago
nurse, covid, ICU...
MyNorthwest Staff

‘They are exhausted’: Spokane reporter offers look inside ICU treating COVID patients

KXLY TV's Robyn Nance shares a special report from inside the ICU at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
By IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
By Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
By Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Harvard Prof: Kids being out of school can have ‘devastating consequences’