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Given COVID-19, Does Anyone See Any Possible Way That Schools Will Begin Their Conventional School Year in September?

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by Brandon Jarvis

In case you missed it, Virginia’s public schools have been closed for the remainder of the academic year, preventing teachers from directly educating their students in classrooms. While school systems and their teachers have been working tirelessly each day to make sure that they can provide the best education possible at a distance, it is still hard for families – and teachers – to adapt. 

However, they might be in this for a much longer time than just the remainder of this school year. 

Unless this virus dies out on its own – which we have no reason to believe will happen – does anyone see any possible way that schools will begin their conventional school year in September? The only way to stop this will be with the combination of herd immunity and a vaccine, which is not expected to be ready before September, or perhaps any point in the near future.

And herd immunity means a large percentage of the population catches this, meaning a lot of lives will be lost in the process, which is terrifying. 

The Trump administration has been adamantly pushing the idea that the vaccine can be ready in a year to 18 months, but scientists across the globe have been very cautious to support that prediction. 

“Like most vaccinologists, I don’t think this vaccine will be ready before 18 months,” says Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Scientists say that a typical vaccine regimen and testing period can sometimes last up to ten years. 

“Tony Fauci is saying a year to 18 months — I think that’s optimistic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a leading expert on infectious disease and vaccine development at Baylor College of Medicine. “Maybe if all the stars align, but probably longer.”

With the prospects of a vaccine being available in time just not looking to be feasible, it might be time for school systems to start preparing now to educate children remotely next year, at least to begin the year. This will take time, money, and patience. 

Colleges and universities across the country have begun, behind closed doors, to prepare to teach students remotely in August, when their calendar year is set to begin. This will be an easier transition, seeing it as a lot of the college education infrastructure is already taught online.

Public schools will not be able to make that transition quite so simply, especially in low-income districts where the resources like reliable internet and computers are really lacking. Even the wealthy neighborhoods in rural communities do not have a reliable broadband internet connection. 

A lot of tears will likely be shed, as they already have by teachers, students and parents alike, but if it comes down to this I am optimistic in our teachers and the people who help facilitate our students’ education to succeed no matter what obstacles that are thrown at them.

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Oh yeah, in case you missed it: several Virginia Delegates sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam asking him to make sure that teachers continue to receive pay. Here is an excerpt from the letter:

“Dear Governor Northam,

We are deeply concerned with the coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of all Virginians and the immediate and long-term economic impact on the Commonwealth, particularly the impact on our K-12 public schools. That is why we were pleased to see your announcement ordering all K-12 schools to be closed for the remainder of the academic year. This action is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health. We recognize that this situation is changing rapidly and urge your administration to take additional measures to prioritize the safety of all public school employees and the students and communities that they serve and ensure that both school districts and school employees are not financially harmed as a result of COVID-19 closures.”