Reopening school in fall risky, should not be done

Jack Dennison '21, Broadcast Director

The unpredictability of the coronavirus has caused many to ask whether to reopen schools in Fall. (Graphic by Jack Dennison ’21)

The coronavirus has been a major factor influencing everything in 2020, and the scariest part of it is the uncertainty of when many things can open. On May 5, Ned Lamont closed schools for the rest of the year. Although the closure is supposed to last until fall, there has been discussion as to whether opening the school at the start of the year is a safe option. 

It is due to this uncertainty that I believe that schools should be closed until it is certain that the coronavirus pandemic has come to an end.

I know that the state is reopening, starting on May 20 but I do not believe that schools should be part of this reopening plan. This is because schools are one of the biggest hot-spots for sicknesses to spread, due to the density and ease of transmission. 

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, high school kids get around four colds per year. Imagine the coronavirus being spread this easily and frequently. If schools reopen, we could see the level of transmission of a virus with a one in 10 death rate.

Imagine the coronavirus being spread this easily and frequently. If schools reopen, we could see the level of transmission of a virus with a one in 10 death rate.”

But what if the coronavirus cases go down enough by the end of summer to start school on time? While I highly doubt this will happen, if it does then there will likely be a second spike in cases. This will be due to a false feeling of the pandemic being over. 

The truth is, as more restrictions get lifted, there will be another spike in cases. According to History.com, the second wave of the Spanish Flu had more cases and more deaths than the first wave. 

While one can make the case that there have been improvements in medicine and vaccines since 1918, there has been a growing anti-vaccination movement. This movement believes that vaccines are not safe to use, and refrain from taking them. A study by Neil Johnson, a physicist at George Washington University found 1,500 anti-vaccination Facebook groups which combined were followed by 85 million individuals. 

The fact that these groups can garner this large of an audience worries me, as this could disrupt herd immunity. In fact, according to Westport News, three elementary schools reported a vaccination rate below the federal recommendation of 95%. Kings Highway School had the lowest rate, at a frightening 87.5%. This shows that even in a place like Westport, the anti-vaccination movement can disrupt herd immunity, which is especially scary with a virus as deadly as COVID-19.

Overall, I believe Westport Public Schools should take a “better safe than sorry” route, and keep schools closed until it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is over. The end may not even come with a vaccine, due to a growing anti-vaccination movement, but with a strong online schooling program, we will continue to learn despite this.