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The Bottom Line Reopen Schools State by State

What’s good for one state may not be good for the next. Authority over schools rests with governors.  They should decide when schools open in their states.  

For example, Alaska, having the least amount of coronavirus cases is not comparable to the hot bed of New York, even though both Alaska and New York have shut down schools for the rest of the year.

On Tuesday, President Trump publicized an “Opening the Country” council, which will provide counsel regarding social distancing efforts moving forward. Participants include hundreds of leaders from business, technology, health care, agriculture, and sports.  Yet no one from education in on the council. This is a mistake.  An educational leader from each state should be included in this group—possibly each state superintendent.

Some federal agencies are saying that getting the economy moving is linked to having schools safely open their doors, freeing up parents to re-enter the workforce. President Trump unveiled his framework for reopening the economy with a proclamation to state governors on Thursday, April 16: In a nutshell, “You are going to call your own shots.”

The various sectors of our economy are linked together. As one cog moves, the rest begin to turn. However, one state may be ready for the shift while others have longer to wait.  Therefore, states need to consider their local conditions in how and when they reopen to reduce the possibility of a rebound of the virus.

For example, Alaska could move at a fairly expeditious pace, while enforcing proper crowd distancing within the classrooms, the cafeteria, even buses. This approach could create pockets of economic rejuvenation throughout the United States.

Of course, there needs to be measures in place to control any future spread of the coronavirus.  Many creative ideas are emerging on how one could do this. For example, in Maryland, the idea has been put forward for health officials to classify and quarantine people who have contracted the virus.  However, this is challenging to implement.  A study at Johns Hopkins University estimates it could take 100,000 public health officials nationwide to effectively trace the virus and slow its spread.

There is no playbook for re-opening the economy as the coronavirus diminishes.  But America has been tried and tested before. We have always prevailed. We must try, with caution, calculated movements to reopen our schools, our economy, and our lives. It starts with individual states.

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.