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On the outset, it seems like a Sophie's Choice: sacrifice health or sacrifice education.

As some Jefferson City start to open, we believe teachers have justifiable concerns. But at the same time, we have faith in our leaders' push to reopen schools.

A new statewide organization of educators came to Jefferson City last week to protest the opening of schools for in-person classes.

As we reported last week, Missourians for Educational Change held a protest in front of the Governor's Mansion. Organizers said it was held, "to remind Gov. (Mike) Parson about the lives that will be saved with a mandate for virtual learning until both COVID-19 cases and community spread have been reduced. We demand our government makes the choice that will save lives."

The group gathered on the sidewalk along East Capitol Avenue placing cardboard tombstones with various messages such as, "I wanted to learn A-B-C's not R-I-P."

The Jefferson City School District and Blair Oaks School District are planning to reopen Aug. 24. Calvary Lutheran High School and Trinity Elementary School start today, while Helias Catholic High School holds its first full day of classes today.

Gov. Mike Parson has echoed President Donald Trump's push to reopen schools and has worked with school officials on plans based on each district's unique needs.

Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said reopening, while it has risks, is the best option.

Closing schools has its own risks, both for education and health.

First, studies have shown the shortfalls of distance learning. Children of color, children living in poverty and children with disabilities particularly tend to suffer loses in learning. Many in these groups also depend on schools for meals.

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified to Congress that school closures will prevent 7.1 million children from accessing mental health services and nutritional support provided from schools.

Also, we now know children are not as susceptible to the virus as we believed when schools were closed this past spring. The Wall Street Journal has reported children are "less susceptible than adults to catching the virus at all, meaning they are less likely to spread it, too."

Some Missouri schools are partially reopening or starting this fall with distance learning. That's their choice. But here in Jefferson City, we believe reopening is the best option at this particular time.

News Tribune

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