In-Person Learning May be Safer at Elementary Schools, Research Shows

President Trump said Thursday school districts in some virus hot spots “may need to delay reopening for a few weeks"

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While the debate over whether to reopen schools continues nationwide, new research suggests in-person learning at elementary schools may be safer than classroom instruction for older students.

According to a study from Iceland published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the infection rate for children under 10 is 6.7 percent, while for those over 10 years old, the infection rate is nearly double, at 13-14 percent.

"We think that... as much they can... that kids be in school, but we recognize that it's not a one size fits all for every school," said Dr. Alison Tothy, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Medicine.

On Thursday morning, doctors from Advocate Aurora Health took part in a Facebook discussion to answer the all important question: should we let our children go back to school?

"My wife and I decided, based on our school plan, that it was in our children's best interest to send them back, but I think that is a personal decision, and every parent must weight the risks and benefits for their particular situation," said Dr. Frank Belmonte, a pediatrician with Advocate Aurora Health.

In a shift from his previous demand, calling for schools to fully reopen, President Trump said Thursday school districts in some virus hot spots “may need to delay reopening for a few weeks."

The CDC on Thursday added new information to its website on opening schools, but it did not appear to remove any of its earlier suggestions. Much of the new material emphasized the importance of reopening schools, echoing many of Trump's arguments.

The updated guidance urged school leaders to work with local officials to make decisions about the fall, taking into account the virus's rate of transmission in the area. It laid out a range of measures depending on the level of spread. If there's minimal or moderate spread, it recommends social distancing, masks and increased sanitation.

But in areas with substantive and uncontrolled spread, it says, school closure is an “important consideration. Plans for virtual learning should be in place in the event of a school closure,” the CDC said.

Some instructors in higher education are wary and joined with the Chicago Teachers Union in saying that remote learning should continue.

"With so much still unknown about COVID-19, this is not the time to rush to reopen our institutions," said John Miller, president of University Professionals of Illinois. "Science must guide our decisions."

Associated Press/NBC Chicago
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