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Willful denial is not a plan

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And here we go:

California’s two largest public school districts said Monday that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers.

The Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts, which together enroll some 825,000 students, are the largest so far in the country to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August.

More than a third of California’s coronavirus cases are in Los Angeles County, and San Diego County has had 18 community outbreaks over the past week, more than double the state’s acceptable threshold.

“There’s a public health imperative to keep schools from becoming a petri dish,” said Austin Beutner, the school superintendent in Los Angeles.

The joint announcement came as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continued to press the Trump administration’s case to quickly reopen public schools, not only for students’ social and emotional development, but also to allow parents to return to work fully.

This is eventually going to happen in many other places, for obvious reasons:

“It will be disastrous for both children and their parents if schools do not re-open” is 1)true and 2)doesn’t make opening schools during a pandemic raging out of control with state and local governments having no money any more viable. For schools to re-open, the virus actually needed to be suppressed, and failing that a lot of resources would have to be invested to increase classroom capacity, provide masks, etc. Since neither of these things are going to happen in most American jurisdictions, some school districts will shut down for the fall, some will open with ad hoc, unpredictable hybrid models that are scarcely better for most working parents than outright closure, and some will open and then shut down when outbreaks happen and many teachers and students stop showing up. Betty DeVos can hector and issue empty threats all she wants, it doesn’t change these basic facts.

And let’s be clear: these devastating school closures didn’t have to happen. Many countries have successfully suppressed the virus. American policymakers simply made a choice to give up prematurely based on nothing, producing all of the downsides of shutting down and not getting the rewards. Declaring that schools “have” top open in the fall and doing nothing to make it possible is just the latest iteration of this.

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