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The Psychological, Emotional And Educational Tradeoffs To Consider For When Schools Reopen

An empty classroom.
An empty classroom.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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As of right now, there are no definitive plans for districts anywhere in California to reopen school buildings for teachers, staff and students to return to what was considered normal operation before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has said it plans to restart classes on August 18th, but with no timeline for resuming classroom instruction for students. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines for schools in the form of a decision tree on how to decide whether it’s safe to reopen or whether more time is needed to ensure certain safeguards are met so that students, teachers and school staff all feel safe to return. 

Finding that “just right” time to reopen schools figures to be a difficult balance for lawmakers and school administrators to strike, and over the coming months they will be wading their way through a sea of tradeoffs to consider from emotional, psychological and public health points of view. Schools reopening is key to restarting the economy, since many parents can’t fully return to work until their kids are back in school. Decision-makers will have to weigh the risk of a virus spread happening at a school with the risk of continuing to force kids to learn at a distance when they are already starved for human contact with their peers and specialized instruction that is so crucial to educational development. What does that portend for older faculty and staff members who might be at higher risk for contracting the virus? And what about parents who aren’t comfortable sending their kids back when schools reopen? Should they have a choice in whether to keep their kids at home?

Today on AirTalk, we’re examining the many trade-offs that will come along with reopening schools, when that time comes. If you’re a parent, student, educator, administrator or school staff member, we’d like to hear what things you’re weighing as you think about going back to school. Join our live conversation by calling 866-892-5722.


Richard Jackson, M.D., pediatrician, epidemiologist and professor emeritus at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, he’s served in many leadership positions with the California Health Department, including as the State Health Officer, for nine years he served as director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health

Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies; as of July 1, he will be the dean of the Rossier School of Education at USC; he tweets @PedroANoguera

Elina Saeki, assistant professor and program coordinator of the Masters in School Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and a nationally-certified school psychologist (NCSP)