Schools should be the last things we close, not the first

The playbook for keeping schools as safe as possible has been understood for many months. First, classrooms need to be less dense, so that students are sitting at least six feet apart at all times. Some classrooms may not be able to accommodate this, but there are often other school spaces that can be used for learning, like auditoriums and libraries. Vacant hotel ballrooms, office buildings, gyms and theaters could even be converted into temporary classrooms.

Second, class start and end times need to be staggered so students aren’t bunched together in the halls. Likewise, schools need to make sure students eat apart, and certainly are not confined to one lunchroom.

Third, students need to be universally masked. Before anyone says that kids will refuse this, as a pediatrician and a father I can assure you that at some point in their lives, children also refuse to wear pants. They’ll learn.

Finally, we need to recognize that some teachers are at higher risk than others, and be thoughtful in how we protect them.