The Corner

Education

D.C. Panel Urges No Full-Time, In-Person School Until There’s a Vaccine

A school bus used for transporting New York City public school students is seen parked in front of a school in the Queens borough of New York January 15, 2013. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The theme of today’s Morning Jolt is that our response and reopening programs are designed for obedient, easily programmed robots, not human beings, and that the group of Americans who are bearing one of the toughest burdens of our failures in leadership are our children.

Shortly after sending the newsletter, I saw this story:

Students in the nation’s capital should not return to full, in-person learning until there is a reliable vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus, according to recommendations released Thursday by a group of advisers appointed by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.

. . . before that, students should return to campuses on modified schedules, switching between in-person and distance learning depending on the day. Even if schools can accommodate them, families should not be required to send their children to school buildings — and will have the option of distance learning — if they feel unsafe.

The D.C. plan calls for no more than 10 students in a classroom in Phase Two, along with staggered arrival and dismissal times, and no cafeterias. (The city hopes to start Phase One at the end of next week.) Other potential plans include having students attend school one or two days a week and participating in remote learning on the others, or having kids attend school one week out of every three weeks.

Public schools will need a plan for something much better and closer to “normal” before a vaccine arrives. (The one caveat is the report that Oxford scientists are hopeful their vaccine will work and be widely available by September, which would be near-miraculous.)

Our ability to treat the disease keeps improving, and there are some promising signs on the vaccine front. Eight vaccines are in human trials, the Oxford effort is expanding to a trial of 10,000 people, and Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the early results from the Moderna trial:

Even though there was only eight individuals, we saw neutralizing antibodies, at a reasonable dose of the vaccine and the titers [the measure of antibodies in the blood] were high enough to get us to believe that if we attained that in a large number of people, you could predict that that vaccine would be protective. So although the numbers were limited, it was really quite good news, because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines.

But a reliable vaccine may not be ready until the end of the year, or early 2021, or the middle of 2021 . . . or ever. And even if one is developed, it will take considerable time to manufacture and distribute it throughout the population.

As mentioned in today’s newsletter, distance learning is probably working okay for some kids, not so great for others, and it is disastrous for the kids who need the most help. And the D.C. plan amounts to continuing distance learning . . .  indefinitely.

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