Your Views: The data is clear: In-person school is safe

Your Views: The data is clear: In-person school is safe
An ACPS first grader works on her homework. (Photo/ACPS)

To the editor:

This letter is in support of getting as many of our kids in Alexandria City Public Schools back to in-person classes as soon as possible.

I have two grandkids in Matthew Maury Elementary School, a kindergartener and a second grader. In spite of the best efforts of their teachers, they are struggling. Our grandkids love their teachers and are incredibly eager to learn, but the online system just is not allowing them to progress effectively.

They miss the person-to-person interaction with their teachers and with the other kids in their classrooms, all of which is vital to learning. The teachers are doing the best they can, the parents are doing everything possible and we, the grandparents, are pitching in with everything we can muster, but it all falls short of the real learning that happens with motivated, professional teachers doing face-to-face teaching in the classroom.

Please get these deserving kids back in the classroom so real learning can begin to happen again.

I believe reopening our classrooms can be done safely. I’m a retired scientist and I have been following the COVID-19 pandemic closely. Here’s some facts that I respectfully offer to help understand the health aspects of in-person learning.

Case 1: The New York Times published an article in October that reports on the targeted testing program during the first three weeks of in-person schools in NYC and concludes that there was “a surprisingly small number of positive cases.” The article further suggests “that the city’s efforts for its 1.1 million public school students could serve as an influential model for school districts across the nation.” In spite of the concern of putting kids and staff together in classrooms, the percentage of students and staff who contracted the virus was essentially the same as the national average.

Case 2: Per the Texas Department of Health and Human Resources, there were a total of 2,136,847 students in classrooms across the state of Texas as of Oct. 25. Of these a cumulative total of 15,986 students have tested positive for COVID-19 during the first 13 weeks of school. This amounts to 0.75%. The rate of positive cases reported for kids in Texas class- rooms so far this school year was roughly half as many as in the general population.

Case 3: A team of researchers and students at Brown, MIT, Harvard and Mass General have started compiling data from across the country into a “COVID-19 School Response Dashboard.” Their latest roll up of data covered the period from Oct. 12 to 25. They collected data from 5,471 schools and reported that 1,570,016 students in these schools are attending in-person classes. For this population, they reported a daily COVID-19 case rate of six per 100,000 students. For comparison, from the Worldometer database, during this period there were an average of 58,613 daily cases for the U.S. population as a whole, which translates to 18 per 100,000.

I believe the above cases strongly support the idea that kids can be brought back into the classroom safely. As noted above, there are millions of kids already in classrooms across our country, and they are learning and thriving. And, the direct evidence says clearly that far from creating “super-spreader” situations, just the opposite is happening.

Our kids are actually safer in the classrooms than in the population at large. Please consider this and get our kids back in school. They deserve nothing less.

-William Barton, Maury School grandparent