As schools ponder more in-class learning, expert says it should be ‘priority’

With a school year like no other starting to wind down, some D.C. region school systems are contemplating increasing the number of days each week students can receive in-class instruction before summer vacation arrives.

Those plans have often been met with criticism, especially from unions and teachers, but one expert said the hurdles can and should be overcome as soon as possible.

“Schooling has been disrupted for far too long in this pandemic,” argued Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician.

Adalja said research suggests “schooling can be done safely with mitigation measures, and now it’s even easier with so much of the teacher population vaccinated.”

He added that mitigation measures in school systems around the country have ensured classrooms are safe for students and staff.

“When you’re wearing masks, you have three feet of separation, you have a highly vaccinated teacher population, it’s the actual pedagogical part of schooling where the risk does not lie,” Adalja said.

“The risk in school is the extracurricular activities — sports, clubs and other things that happen outside of the actual learning in school — and I think schools need to prioritize the actual education of students over sports and extracurricular activities. That’s the way to keep schools safe.”

He said another recent boost for schools is the increasing eligibility for vaccines among students as young as 16.

“I do think you can increase capacity, you can increase the number of school days in the building with all the mitigation measures in place now, and it’s something that is long overdue,” Adalja said. “This should be a priority for every place in the country.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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