The opening of private and county schools is essential to the opening of the workplace and our economy.

Few have recognized the critical importance of opening our county and private schools in the strategy to open our workforce and the economy. With children at home, parents cannot go to work.

Without parents being in essential workplaces or having uninterrupted work time the economy does not open fully. Hence opening schools is a prerequisite to the “new normal.”

In most metro-cities in Tennessee, we are seeing 50 to 125 new cases each day. Our transmission number is just about one. We still have ongoing community transmission. Our children come from diverse communities where transmission is occurring.

The COVID-19 disease presentation in children is variable and often is asymptomatic and contagious. Given these suppositions, we propose this strategy.

We propose five overarching concepts to public and private schools to open safely and permanently. 

Integrating virtual learning

First, every school, every grade, and every classroom should have a parallel “blended” online and in-person teaching curriculum. This means a laptop hooked onto Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangout is connected to any student who is at home taking the class simultaneously.

The reason a student maybe not in class could be a medical condition, a personal choice, isolation for 14 days due to exposure, or mild illness the morning of school.  The transitions from classroom to school-at-home should be seamless for the teacher and student.

Promoting remote teaching

Those children or teachers over the age of 60 or anyone with underlying chronic diseases will need to be identified and will need to take extra precautions, learning, and teaching remotely.

Also, if children are living with parents or grandparents over the age of 60 or those with chronic health conditions, they may consider remote teaching or learning.

Make sure children are wearing masks

All children will need to be masked, as much as it is possible with children, provided by parents or the school and during lunch, children should be 6 feet apart.

During the day, before and after each class, classroom surfaces sanitization with wipes, and hand sanitization would be part of the routine.

Fourth, the daily screening will be required for all children with a temperature check, and symptom questions.

Take preventive measures

Each community based on its resources, availability of testing capacity, and disease prevalence can create safe-schools based on testing.

This can be done through massive large scale self-administered or assisted nasal swab testing, possibly every week or every other week, for children using low-cost PCR testing pooling techniques.

While no test is perfect and anyone can turn positive a day after testing negative, this provides the maximum safety measure possible.

Regular PCR testing early detection of active disease can be funded using the county’s federal funds to jump-start the economy and stop COVID. The extent and duration of testing can be scaled up or down based on local transmission rates.

Based on the weekly testing data and positivity results and compliance with social distancing and masking some level of relaxation of the above measure can be considered at school. However, if there is a large outbreak leading to tens and hundreds of infected students, then that would be a reason for the closure.

The opening of private and county schools is essential to the opening of the workplace and our economy. We need to invest time, money, effort and to do it safely.

Community transmission of any viral illness is ignited and fueled in daycare and schools If we can break the chain of transmission where it starts, we can keep the virus at bay in the general population.

It is our best and fighting chance for successfully opening our economy and our children. We need to get the transmission rate less than one, which is the only way to expand the economy safely while we wait for a vaccine.

Source: Commercial Appeal