Just Reopen the Schools Now

Jonathan Chait:

It is entirely possible that when we look back at the coronavirus pandemic decades from now, we may see the gravest catastrophe as a generation of schoolchildren whose formative years were irrevocably stunted. Even if the year and counting of public-school rollback has not done as much damage as the death toll itself, it is a social crisis of the same magnitude.

As the pandemic recedes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand why school closings continue to grind on. The answer at this point is simply to open up schools, everywhere, right away.

Every social-distancing measure is the product of a cost-benefit calculation. Some measures net out obviously positive: wearing masks indoors or closing bars and in-person dining. Closing schools last spring was an act of desperation in the face of a spiraling pandemic, very much like eating your seed corn as an alternative to starvation.

Schools have remained shuttered not for any rational calculation but because they’re easy to close and difficult to open. Closing can be done with an order by a governor or public official. Opening requires negotiating a gamut of government guidelines, negotiation with often recalcitrant teachers unions, and persuading parents who have (in some cases) come to see in-person schooling as a serious risk.

An important dynamic is that when authorities first closed schools, they were operating in an atmosphere of extreme uncertainty. It would be an exaggeration to say that schools pose no risk, or even that public-health authorities have a perfect understanding of the risk they pose. It can be said, however, that the weight of evidence strongly suggests in-person schooling, especially of younger students, poses a small health risk. One of the most recent additions to the literature finds “in-person learning in New York City public schools was not associated with increased prevalence or incidence overall of COVID-19 infection compared with the general community.” A New York Times surveyof 175 experts drew the same conclusion.

Many schools have been held back by CDC standards saying that they only permit in-person classrooms if students sit no closer than six feet apart. This requirement makes full-time schooling impossible, because schools simply don’t have enough room to teach every student while spacing them so far apart.

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.