And without this monitoring, health and education experts say, there is no way to come up with best practices for restarting schools, educating children more effectively, and opening up their parents to engage in their working lives.
“Unfortunately, some of our knowledge actually comes from anecdotes alone,” said Dr. Susan Coffin, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We don’t have good strategies for systematically gathering experience across a swath of the United States to actually be able to study the different approaches they have and, in some cases, haven’t worked so well.”
Kimberly Berens, a scientist-educator with a PhD in behavioral science, told CNN she sees playing around her in Long Island, New York.
“Within a five-mile radius around my office there are several public and private schools, and each of those schools is doing different things, which is crazy,”
“What I know as a scientist is that, if I am manipulating multiple variables at once, I have no idea which variable actually produced whatever result I achieved or not. So, with schools in a district all doing different things, then we can’t put your finger on what contributed to an increase in prevalence or a decrease in prevalence. ”
New research on children and Covid-19
Some scientific knowledge about children and the coronavirus has increased since schools across the country were closed in March.
Coffin told CNN that while new research has shown that children can contract and transmit the coronavirus, which was previously not as certain, “on average, a child’s ailment will be less severe than an adult’s, provided that do not have basic conditions.. “
But there hasn’t been a chance to study it yet.
But for most of the schools that opened their doors, infection rates and case counts haven’t skyrocketed as much as medical professionals, teachers, and parents feared.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said it could have been a cause for celebration if someone effectively followed the situation.
“Some schools opened well and well, with no disease transmission and that would have created great trust,” Weingarten told CNN. “But instead of having a big national holiday over any of these things, everyone is completely nervous and anxious about what will happen because there is no national leader.”
The problematic openings could also have helped others, Weingarten said. “I think Georgia … situation, where you’ve seen huge numbers of kids running through those corridors in the middle of a real community, has spread enough to scare people into making masks and physically walking away.”
Part of what has led to a safe reopening, experts say, is introducing in-person learning only when the spread of the coronavirus in the community is relatively low.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Texas Tribune Festival in late September “you have to consider the relative risk to children in that particular area, county, city, state, that you happen to be living. “when determining when to bring children back to school.
Dr Jennifer Nuzzo, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, agrees that “the first requirement, of course, is that we have, you know, a relatively low level of infection in the surrounding community.”
“In places where the number of cases is rapidly accelerating, or just rising and unchecked, it will remain that when people in the community get infected, those cases will show up in schools. And of course, no one wants to open a school just to shut it down again. , due to the need to quarantine students or staff. “
In its guidelines, the CDC determined that mitigation strategies such as wearing masks, social distancing by reducing class size, spacing out desks, implementing cleaning protocols, and developing a proactive plan for when a student or staff member tests positive for Covid-19 should be incorporated into any school reopening project.
But again, the evidence to show that such measures are having an impact is anecdotal at best as there are no nationwide mandatory testing and reporting of coronavirus infections in schools. And while the state of New York releases this information, Georgia has decided to keep it secret.
“These first data are encouraging,” said Emily Oster, an economics professor at Brown University, who helped create the dashboard.
“The school opening process does not appear to be driving outbreaks outside of school,” Oster told CNN. “These risks may be lower than previously thought.”
But there are suspicious cases among both staff and students, and Oster said schools need testing skills to get an even clearer picture.
He added that schools that have implemented social distancing and mask mandates have been even more successful.
“We are definitely seeing that some of these mitigating factors are strongly associated with lower rates, and therefore the places that are doing them appear to have less prevalence than other places,” Oster said.
Oster also spoke with parents and school administrators and found that widespread anxiety – that young children may not be able to hold masks – may be misplaced.
“Actually, that’s great,” Oster said of the young students. “The people that I think we are struggling to get to wear masks are the adults and the high school students.”
How some children were affected
Kelly Foster was afraid to send her second and fifth graders to school in person at their private school in Atlanta, but now she feels like one of the lucky ones.
“When my kids spend too much time online, they get bad. It changes their personality – they get grumpy, they get angry,” she said.
Now they are back in school, their mood has improved dramatically, she said.
Alexis Barad-Cutler hopes this one plays with her children. She says her 6-year-old son Gavi was afraid to go out and developed an anxious oral fixation from spending so much time on his iPad.
Now he has to have something to chew on in order to pay attention to the screen, he said. The Barad-Cutlers live in Brooklyn Heights, and Gavi and his fourth-grade brother have just started returning to their New York City public school for two days a week.
In Atlanta, Kristina Christy’s sixth and ninth students spent weeks and weeks of the new school year learning in a virtual format.
“This isn’t working,” Christy told CNN.
He says his children aren’t doing well academically and doesn’t understand why public schools can’t open.
“Every private school here in Atlanta is either in person or they have an in person option,” he said. “Why can’t we learn from what they’re doing?”
The difference between in-person and online learning could become another dividing line between students.
Nuzzo, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said delays, interruptions and other difficulties in online learning could have “lifelong consequences” for students.
“We really need to worry about this loss and we have plans on how to deal with it and get students back in step with the times,” he said.
But obviously students are only part of the equation. Teachers have to go to school too, and for Karen Ngosso, a third-grade teacher in Baltimore, the time isn’t right.
She says she sees nearly all of her 42 Hazelwood Elementary students access classes and points out that everyone is doing what they can to give the children a high quality education.
And until there is a Covid-19 vaccine, Ngosso said he’s not comfortable going back to teaching in person.
“I know how I am handling the pandemic and how I am following protocols with myself, my children and the people who enter my space, but I cannot control what others are doing in this vast world and people move, travel and they do different things. And some people think it’s nothing, “he said.
“I don’t want to be a guinea pig. I don’t want to be a petri dish,” he added. “People really need to understand that just because I’m a teacher doesn’t mean I’ve stopped being a human.”
CNN’s Bianna Golodryga and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this story.