Post-New Year School Closures Defy Common Sense

Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
January 03, 2022
Education Next

As Covid enters its Omicron phase, common sense is beginning to creep in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have cut quarantine time to five days from ten days not because new research has suddenly produced a new magic number but because a ten-day interval is disrupting the country’s transport systems, restaurants, health provider networks, and economy as a whole.

But in education the capacity to balance remains far from ballerina perfect. Closed for the holidays, too many schools are floundering, acting like little boys who do not want their vacation to end. In Massachusetts teacher unions are demanding extra days off so that they have time to get tested. The state department of education has rejected their demands, but Cambridge and several other districts in the Boston area are deciding to keep doors shut. Washington, D. C., Baltimore, and Seattle school districts are following suit. More than 2,000 schools across the country are not welcoming children back to school the day after their New Year’s weekend. Nor are the country’s elite universities exempt from this sort of education hesitancy. My own employer, Harvard University, has insisted on going digital for three weeks; Stanford University has decided two weeks is enough—at least for now.

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