Studies in JAMA Pediatrics and The Lancet have found ample reason to doubt whether school closures saved a significant number of lives. As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum pointed out in a review of the scientific literature, closures “have (a) little effect and (b) are probably nowhere near worth the tremendous impact they have on both parents and kids.”
That’s an important point: Reducing the amount of time that children spend at school is terribly burdensome for many parents who rely on school’s day care effect. Keep in mind that public schools are funded through taxes. It’s hardly fair for the state to confiscate vast sums of money from its citizens, in part for the purpose of child care, and then suddenly cease offering this service while keeping the money. States that want to make it possible for people to return to work—for the economy to reopen—really need to prioritize schools: They are among the first elements of public life that must return to a semblance of normality, and the risks seem comparatively low.
It won’t be possible to have a completely normal school year, of course. Officials should axe egregiously risky activities—no indoor pep rallies, for instance—and adult school employees might very well opt to wear masks or take other precautions, especially if they are elderly or immunocompromised.