Ups and downs of COVID-19 to require flexibility this school year

Coronavirus cases are rising and parents are putting masks on their list of back-to-school items to get between now and when their kids climb those steps of the school bus again.

When their kids closed out those Zoom sessions for the last time in June, as vaccines were becoming more and more available, masks and rising cases of COVID-19 were not what many parents expected to be reckoning with again.

While the news and the trends might be somewhat pessimistic right now, it’s not always going to stay that way. But it may not be all that rosy anytime soon, either.

“Things probably will be at least starting to turn around in another four weeks time,” said David Dowdy, an public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

“I think this is going to be hard for a lot of people to hear, but this is going to be a virus that has ups and downs over the course of the school year,” he said.

“I think that the school systems are going to have to react to that.”

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In his opinion, that doesn’t mean a return to virtual learning or even the hybrid structures that saw kids getting a couple of days per week of in-class instruction to go with a few days of virtual learning at home.

“Things like testing at schools, for example, having kids wearing masks, these are things that we are potentially going to have to do,” said Dowdy.

“It’s not going to have to be constant throughout the year. As things start to get worse we’re going to have to do a little bit more and when they get better we can do a little bit less.

“Some of these decisions have to be made on a rolling basis, almost,” he said.

The flexibility that will be demanded, again, stems in part because of the responsibilities that school systems have to balance that private businesses do not. It also means that any decisions schools may have made today about the upcoming school year could well have to be revisited.

“Yes, parents have put up with a lot already over the past year and a half, but unfortunately we’re not done with this yet,” he said. “We do have to try and continue to make the best decisions possible for our kids and our society in real time.”

“If you have not yet been vaccinated there is no better time,” added Dowdy. “Your risk of getting this disease is going up every day.”

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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