Coronavirus Chronicles — Schools Must or Must Not Open

Now, at the beginning of August, conflict around school is rampant. The strongest sense of urgency at the moment is connected with education, and big cities, whose school systems are already assailed by innumerable problems, are having the worst time. Smaller places are not doing so great either. Matters having to do with curriculum and such mundane academic matters are pushed to the background.

The difference between in-school education and virtual learning can be enormous, and without a doubt there are hands-on courses that require equipment and supplies only found in buildings dedicated to education. When physical school is closed, any child who wants to become an Olympic swimmer or a football star is simply out of luck. Unfortunately, for them, merely returning to school might not help much, because the awareness of contagion is bound to change almost everything about the conduct of sports.

Physical education might be limited to running around an outdoor track at a respectful distance from other students. It could suffice to save a certain number of ordinary children from obesity, but those who need intense, specialized training are likely to be disappointed.

In-person school is needful for many reasons. At the moment, millions of children do not have enough to eat. Others have too much to eat, and spare time to spend on recreational eating. Both these problems are alleviated by going to school.

We all go crazy

There is a huge psychological component. For obese children who are bullied at school, staying home is a relaxing vacation from persecution. On the other hand, like it or not, a big part of normal development seems to include the need to compare oneself with one’s peers. It is at least possible that the frequent sight of athletes can help teens remember to rein in their self-destructive habits.

When kids have nowhere to be but home, there is bound to be friction between them and their parents. For children in situations that are not just annoying, but seriously abusive, being sentenced to the prison of home is miserable. If parents still have jobs that require physical attendance, leaving kids home on their own most of the time is not so great either.

Decisions need to be made on every level. Teachers are maximally vulnerable. They need to make heavy decisions about housing, acceptable risk, family responsibilities, community obligations, and so on. Knowing whether you will have a job next month is pretty important. Making a plan for if you wind up on a ventilator is also important.

For Commentary, Noah Rothman wrote,

A late May survey found that nearly two-thirds of educators polled by teaching-industry publication EdWeek’s Research Center wanted to keep schools closed indefinitely. A USA Today/Ipsos poll from the same period confirmed that one-in-five teachers would refuse to go back to school if their classrooms reopened.

That apprehension has not abated in the intervening weeks. As the New York Times reported on Saturday, teachers around the country have taken to social media to argue that classrooms should not reopen at all until their localities had seen zero new COVID-19 cases for at least two weeks.

Rothman formed an impression that legislators were leaning in favor of the cautious teachers, but as we will see, that impression may have been incorrect.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Coming Showdown over Schooling,”, 07/13/20
Image by Narumi/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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