I stumbled upon an excellent twitter thread written by Melissa Hillman and it is so damn spot on that I am sharing it here in place of my daily blog post.

About 30% of teachers (public and private) were over the age of 50 in 2018. 95.2% of Covid-19 deaths have been of people 50-years-old or older. If a teacher can retire, they should. And they are. But teachers below retirement age are also leaving the profession. One in five said they would not return to the classroom this fall. There are plenty of teachers with other risk factors. Or who live with people who are at risk. Or who simply don’t want to fuel a pandemic.

In order to practice social distancing in classrooms the schools must either decrease the number of students in the classroom or increase the area that the classroom occupies. Since it is physically impossible to increase the area inside a classroom the only option is to decrease the number of students. That requires an increase in the number of teachers. But with fewer teachers the student to teacher ratio is going to increase, not decrease. Melissa is right, it will be “impossible” to socially distance in classrooms.

Teachers will be scapegoated for not being able to do an impossible job. And the lack of social distancing and effective sterilization of the classroom will lead to more infections than the planners are anticipating.

This is simple math. Classrooms will become petri dishes for Covid-19. Schools will become super spreader sites. Teachers will become sick. Schools will be shut down.

And while politicians and administrators seem to be willing to sacrifice the lives of teachers and staff, students will be taking Covid-19 back to their families where family members will die. And Melissa makes a great point, the students will “grow up believing they were the cause of those deaths [because] they brought the virus home.”

The “reopen schools” crowd who keeps talking about how we are risking the mental health of children by keeping schools closed are not considering what happens to children who lose parents or grandparents to the disease, and then blame themselves for the deaths.

So why the rush back to school? The hope of an economic recovery.

But it won’t work. It will backfire. Deaths will continue to grow and the economy will continue to suffer. Schools will be forced to close again. And yes, teachers will be the scapegoats.

But back to the mental health of children. Schools in the best of times are a threat to the mental health of many schoolchildren. And a socially distant school will make it more of a threat to far more students during the pandemic.

There are no good options moving forward. There are some really bad ones, some less bad ones, and some relatively better ones. But no good options. We are mired in a global pandemic and the economic depression that comes with it. It is going to get worse. People are suffering. But some people are suffering more than others. Trading off more deaths for the false hope of an economic recovery is a morally repugnant option. Sending kids back to schoolhouses that will fuel the pandemic is a far worse option than having them school at home. But if people are so eager to get back to school (so parents can go back to work), why are so few actually planning to simply take the classroom outdoors where social distancing is possible? Why hasn’t every school committed to leaving their schools empty while they take the students into the fields, parks, and forests? Leaving the schoolhouse behind is an option that everyone who wants to reopen schools should be rallying around.