Though the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, most of our nearly 100,000 public schools across the country have opened full-time again to ensure a sense of normalcy for both children and their parents. Along with this, however, have come growing concerns about how variants of the virus will impact both the health and education of our future generations — and they’re not unfounded. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported that 20% of all child cases since the beginning of the pandemic were diagnosed in the first few weeks of the back-to-school season.
While there isn’t one magical solution, many school districts are continuing to implement various mask and social distancing requirements as well as vigorous cleaning protocols. Of course, over the past several months, we’ve come to realize that intensive cleaning and disinfectant procedures —now often dubbed “hygiene theater”— are not the most adept at mitigating transmission of the virus. As the CDC has determined, the COVID-19 virus is most transmissible via air droplets. And, unfortunately, a great deal of our country’s public school buildings are more than 50 years old, with aging HVAC systems and suboptimal ventilation. It’s a perfect storm that will cause the risk of transmitting the virus to persist long after desks and door handles are cleaned.