Parenting in a Pandemic

School districts weigh health risks and costs of reopening in the fall

Justin Ho Jul 14, 2020
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The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is sticking with online classes come August, has over 600,000 students. Testing them for COVID-19 could cost $300 per student over the year. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
Parenting in a Pandemic

School districts weigh health risks and costs of reopening in the fall

Justin Ho Jul 14, 2020
Heard on:
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which is sticking with online classes come August, has over 600,000 students. Testing them for COVID-19 could cost $300 per student over the year. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
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The Los Angeles Unified School District will not reopen when school starts again in August, as COVID-19 cases spike in Southern California. Online learning will continue indefinitely in the nation’s second-largest school district. Across the country, school districts are weighing the costs of reopening.

In addition to the potential health risks of reopening during the pandemic, districts would have to pay for protective gear, for expanding the square footage of schools to make social distancing possible and for more buses.

“You’re looking at a significant increase in your transportation costs,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng with the American Association of School Administrators.

The organization found that, on average, districts are facing nearly $2 million in reopening costs.

“And an average district enrolls 3,500 students. And LA is no average district,” Ng said.

It has over 600,000 students, and LA says that testing those students and staff for the virus could cost $300 per student over the year.

But keeping kids at home also comes with costs. Julie Marsh, an education policy professor at the University of Southern California said that in the spring, teachers had problems using online tools.

“A lot of the challenges had to do with teachers not knowing how to even get students to show up, and turn on their screens, and to engage,” Marsh said.

LA’s school district said teachers and students will receive additional training in online education.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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