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Can Schools Open Safely During A Pandemic? Looking Abroad For Answers47:37
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A sixth grader wears a protective face mask and gloves as he attends class for the first time since March at the GutsMuths Grundschule elementary school during the novel coronavirus crisis on May 4, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A sixth grader wears a protective face mask and gloves as he attends class for the first time since March at the GutsMuths Grundschule elementary school during the novel coronavirus crisis on May 4, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

School districts across the U.S. are struggling with how — even if — to open this fall. But schools in many countries overseas have already opened. We’ll look to see what lessons we can learn to help with our own school reopenings.

Guests

Emmi Sarvikivi, pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland. Part of a working group which helps to create guidelines regarding the reopening of Finnish schools.

Ronit Calderon-Margalit, public health physician. Professor of epidemiology at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Braun School of Public Health. In late April, she and other physicians presented a proposal to Israel’s Health Ministry which suggested schools should open in a controlled manner. (@HebrewU)

Brandon Guthrie, assistant professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at the University of Washington. In early July he compiled a list of countries and their school reopening strategies for the state of Washington’s Department of Health. (@UWdgh)

Simon Denyer, The Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief, covering Japan and the Koreas. (@simondenyer)

Emiliana Vegas, senior fellow and co-director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. (@EmiVegasV)

From The Reading List

University of Washington report on school reopenings in 15 foreign countries:

Science: "School openings across globe suggest ways to keep coronavirus at bay, despite outbreaks" — "Early this spring, school gates around the world slammed shut. By early April, an astonishing 1.5 billion young people were staying home as part of broader shutdowns to protect people from the novel coronavirus. The drastic measures worked in many places, dramatically slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19."

The Washington Post: "Reopened Schools in Europe and Asia have largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks. They have lessons for the U.S." — "Many countries around the world are pushing ahead with plans for full-time, full-capacity, in-person classes, after having largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks linked to schools during more tentative reopenings in the spring. From Belgium to Japan, schools are abandoning certain social distancing measures, such as alternate-day schedules or extra space between desks. They have decided that part-time or voluntary school attendance, supplemented by distance learning, is not enough — that full classrooms are preferable to leaving kids at home."

The New York Times: "How to Reopen Schools: What Science and Other Countries Teach Us" — "As school districts across the United States consider whether and how to restart in-person classes, their challenge is complicated by a pair of fundamental uncertainties: No nation has tried to send children back to school with the virus raging at levels like America’s, and the scientific research about transmission in classrooms is limited."

Vox: "The key lesson from school openings abroad: Contain the virus" — "Cities and states across the United States are grappling with how — or even whether — to reopen schools this fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the experiences of other countries around the world suggest an uncomfortable reality: While there are some best practices that can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus, there’s still no surefire way to bring children back into classrooms safely."

This program aired on July 22, 2020.

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