As the nation wrestles with the best way to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has argued for a slow and steady approach.
And he said Massachusetts is doing well in that regard.
“The goal is not to open schools, the goal is to keep them open,” Duncan said, “Schools are not bubbles, they’re not islands, the only way we can safely open schools is if we beat down this disease in our communities. I think Massachusetts has done a very good job relative to most.”
In a conversation facilitated by City Year Co-Founder and Congressional candidate Alan Khazei Friday, Harvard Medical School Dean George Daley agreed.
Daley said school districts across the commonwealth will be paying close attention to community transmission rates when making decisions, since widespread testing is not currently part of the equation for schools from pre-K to 12th grade.
“It’s not currently really practical, the logistical issues and cost of testing on a broad scale is very, very challenging,” Daley said.
Khazei has floated the idea of using Americorps volunteers, or something similarly structured, to provide critical small group instruction to children during remote learning.
“You could have smaller groups, you could have online tutoring, you could have people making sure kids are doing their homework,” Khazei said.
Duncan argued broadband internet needs to be a utility treated like water or electricity and available to all.
And he said that, as a society, we also need to focus less on reopening bars and more on reopening schools.
“Let’s as adults, be willing to sacrifice just a little bit, so our children can have great opportunities,” Duncan said.
Meanwhile Daley said vaccine trials have been encouraging, and while mass production will be an enormous hurdle, he is hopeful vaccines could be rolled out starting in the first or second quarter of 2021.