Reopening Schools Should Be a Question of “When and How,” Not “If”

July 24, 2020
Weekly Columns

As a father of four and a former school board member, I understand the importance of education and its value to the community. I also understand the severity of COVID-19 and how we must take every precaution to slow its spread and keep Americans safe. With another school year quickly approaching, we are faced with a difficult question: should we reopen schools? I believe we should, and focus all our efforts on providing teachers and students with protective gear, shrinking class sizes, spreading desks apart or finding other ways to limit contact and prevent contagion.

On July 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines recommending that children attend school in person, saying children are less likely to contract the virus, and typically experience far less severe symptoms. Governor Asa Hutchinson has also released a comprehensive reopening plan for the fall, ensuring that students and teachers will remain as safe as possible.

Moving school online for the foreseeable future simply isn’t tenable. Many Arkansan students don’t have reliable internet connections, not to mention the fact that working parents often don’t have the option to alternative childcare or individual tutors. The temporary closure of many businesses, schools and public areas this spring was necessary to flatten the curve and slow the initial spread of COVID-19, but now we must begin the process of safely reinstating aspects of normal daily life in our state and local communities. Students returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a goal of Governor Hutchinson and President Trump, and I believe it is a goal we can achieve.