As COVID-19 cases rise in Florida and each day brings the start of the 2020-2021 school year closer, the state government faces a tough decision in regard to the reopening of schools. While teachers and parents express their concerns, governor Ron DeSantis rebuts, saying that students must return to in-person instruction next month. He claims to feel strongly about schools’ ability to reopen safely and states that he is “amazed at the extent to which people under 18 are low risk for this.” However, not only is this group not as low risk as he makes it out to be, but they are still human lives that should be protected at all costs. As of right now, Florida has 369,834 cases of COVID-19, with 23,170 of those being individuals under 18. No matter how much DeSantis insists on in-person classes, the government cannot put the lives of so many children at stake while the state is at the epicenter of the pandemic. While online classes do not compare to those in-person, Florida schools cannot open until COVID-19 cases decline significantly because summer camps attempted it and failed, and an outbreak that would result in many deaths is practically unavoidable.

Saving Lives Should Be Top Priority

One of the biggest arguments in favor of the return to school in a brick-and-mortar setting is that online classes simply do not compare. This is a fair point. Research shows that courses administered in-person are all around more effective. They help motivate students to engage with content and provide daily social interaction necessary to maintaining good mental health. On top of this, it seems that those students who struggle in-person are even more likely to struggle online. These elements definitely support DeSantis’s argument, but will they even matter if the student is no longer alive? Providing an excellent education is, of course, important, but ensuring that the students receiving the education are healthy enough to learn should be at the top of the list. As detrimental as having a lower-quality semester or even year could be for some, keeping both students and staff alive is more vital; without those two groups, there is not even an education system. Pushing so many bodies into an institution will only lead to more harm than good, so Florida schools should not open while cases remain high.

Camps Couldn’t Do It

If anything predicts how the reopening of schools will go, it is the record of summer camps. Both include a large number of bodies congregated in the same location, with children making up the majority of them. While camps do not have nearly as many people as a school, their failure only supports the argument more that schools simply cannot open safely. With more bodies, the spread of COVID-19 in the schools will be even more severe. All across the U.S., camps either did not open at all or did and later had to close because of an outbreak. Even those that prepared with as many precautions as possible found that it was just not enough—somehow, an outbreak still managed to occur. Unfortunately, in these kinds of settings where there is too much inevitable human contact and where children are inclined to be touching each other, it does not seem like the spread of COVID-19 can be avoided. Schools should not follow the failed attempts of summer camps and open, risking yet another spike in COVID-19 cases and possible deaths.

What The Spread Looks Like

Schools are a breeding ground for COVID-19. From students rubbing past each other in the hallway, to teachers handing out papers in the classroom, the ways in which the virus can be spread are endless. This poses serious problems when considering how realistic the reopening of schools is. For example, if one student were to arrive at school infected, the virus would spread extremely quickly to the other students in the class, the teacher, and then go on from there. At the end of the day, those people, as well as any other faculty that the student came into contact with, such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and office staff, would have been exposed. Quarantine requirements would then go into effect, forcing all of these people to stay at home for at least 14 days. This will occur every time they are exposed, creating a back and forth between home and school that is not conducive to learning. On top of this, once too many teachers fall sick, who will teach? They will have to instruct remotely anyway, assuming they feel healthy enough to do so, so why come into school in the first place? The ease with which COVID-19 could spread in a school and lead to many people dying is great, and because of this, schools should not go back into session this fall.

What Now?

Florida schools cannot open up while COVID-19 cases remain so high because it will lead to an increase in both cases and deaths. Teachers are writing their wills right now before they return to work, and this should not be the case. Turning to remote learning will be difficult for students and teachers alike, but it will prevent a catastrophe. To help with the transition to remote learning, teachers can use some of the features available on video chatting platforms to make the most of their situations. For example, before continuing to another topic, teachers can employ the survey feature to gauge how confident students feel about the material just covered. This will minimize how many students fall behind unknowingly. Also, teachers can use breakout rooms to encourage much-needed socializing between students and discourse on the lessons that would occur easily in the classroom. This is obviously not the ideal, but it will help teachers and students for the time being. Many deaths can be avoided, and everything should be done to keep those in the school system safe. More people must communicate to Governor DeSantis and district superintendents to stop schools from opening. They have the power over this decision, and if enough constituents express distress, they might reconsider their current plan of reopening. Everyone should make their voice heard and aid in the effort to contain the virus.