Transcript: Can Schools Keep COVID-19 at Bay? | Jul 28, 2020

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer over a purple blouse.

A caption on screen reads "Can schools keep COVID-19 at bay? Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says IT'S PEAK SUMMER RIGHT NOW, BUT FOR EDUCATORS AND POLICYMAKERS, IT'S PEAK PLANNING FOR THE RETURN OF THE SCHOOL YEAR IN UNDER SIX WEEKS. WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE IN THIS COVID-19 ERA, THAT KEEPS EVERYONE SAFE AND LEARNING? LET'S ASK: IN WESTON, CONNECTICUT: PAM BELLUCK, HEALTH AND SCIENCE WRITER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES...

Pam is in her forties, with long chestnut hair. She's wearing a purple shirt and a matching pendant necklace.

Nam continues AND HERE IN THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL: KRISTIN RUSHOWY, WHO SPENT 15 YEARS COVERING EDUCATION FOR THE TORONTO STAR, AND NOW REPORTS FROM THE PAPER'S QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU...

Kristin is in her forties, with shoulder-length straight brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a black sweater and a gray blouse.

Nam continues WELCOME TO YOU BOTH.
PAM, WE'RE IN THIS INCREDIBLY UNIQUE TIME WHERE BASICALLY THE WHOLE WORLD SHUT DOWN SCHOOLS AND NOW SCHOOLS IN NORTH AMERICA ARE JUST A FEW WEEKS AWAY FROM SCHOOL OPENING UP AGAIN. WHAT DOES SCIENCE TELL US ABOUT HOW COVID-19 AFFECTS CHILDREN?

The caption changes to "Pam Belluck. The New York Times."

Pam says THERE ARE STILL A LOT OF THINGS WE DON'T KNOW. BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF INDICATIONS THAT THE VIRUS DOESN'T AFFECT YOUNG CHILDREN, ESPECIALLY, SAY, AGES 10 AND UNDER, NEARLY AS HARD AS IT DOES ADULTS. IT SEEMS LIKE ABOUT 2 percent OF CONFIRMED CASES PRETTY MUCH AROUND THE WORLD ARE CHILDREN, AND MOST CHILDREN DON'T GET VERY SICK, ALTHOUGH THERE ARE DEFINITELY EXCEPTIONS. SO THAT'S, YOU KNOW, KIND OF HEARTENING NEWS. THERE'S ALSO KIND OF GROWING EVIDENCE THAT LITTLE KIDS DON'T SEEM TO TRANSMIT THE VIRUS TO OTHER PEOPLE AS MUCH AS ADULTS DO, AND THAT'S, YOU KNOW, ANOTHER PROMISING IDEA FOR BRINGING AT LEAST THE YOUNGER STUDENTS BACK TO SCHOOL.

Nam says BECAUSE I THINK, AS A PARENT, IN THE BACK OF MY MIND I KNOW THAT WHERE MY CHILDREN GO TO SCHOOL BEFORE ALL THIS HAPPENED, THEY WOULD GET SICK ALL OF THE TIME. BUT WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR US TO KEEP IN MIND THAT WITH THE CORONAVIRUS, YOUNGER CHILDREN ARE LESS LIKELY TO GET SICK?

The caption changes to "Pam Belluck, @PamBelluck."

Pam says YES, WELL, THIS IS SUCH AN UNUSUAL VIRUS, RIGHT? WITH THE FLU, WITH MOST OTHER RESPIRATORY VIRUSES, CHILDREN GET SICK AND THEY TRANSMIT TO, YOU KNOW, VERY EASILY. THIS VIRUS DOESN'T SEEM TO WORK THAT WAY. WE DON'T EXACTLY KNOW WHY. THERE ARE SOME SCIENTIFIC THEORIES THAT PERHAPS CHILDREN DON'T HAVE SOME OF THE PROTEINS AND RECEPTORS THAT ALLOW THE VIRUS TO GET INTO THEIR LUNG CELLS AND REPLICATE, BUT WE DON'T QUITE KNOW THE REASON, BUT WHAT WE DO KNOW IS THAT THEY DON'T GET IT VERY OFTEN AND THEY DON'T SEEM TO BE SYMPTOMATIC VERY IMPORTANT, AND THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT WHEN YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT SCHOOL REOPENING BECAUSE IF YOU HAVE A SITUATION WHERE CHILDREN ARE NOT GOING TO EASILY TRANSMIT IT TO EACH OTHER, THEN IT'S A LITTLE BIT SAFER TO HAVE THEM IN A PLACE WITH LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT THE RISK IS ZERO, AND SCHOOLS SHOULD BE, WHEN THEY REOPEN, THEY SHOULD BE TAKING A LOT OF PRECAUTIONS TO KEEP DESKS 6 FEET APART, TO DO LOTS OF SANITIZING, TO REQUIRE MASKS WHEN, YOU KNOW, FEASIBLE. IT'S POSSIBLE THAT FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN MASKS AREN'T GOING TO DO VERY MUCH BECAUSE THEY MAY NOT WEAR THEM APPROPRIATELY, BUT TO REQUIRE TEACHERS TO WEAR MASKS, AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS THAT SCIENTISTS RECOMMEND IS SORT OF KEEPING KIDS IN SMALL DEFINED GROUPS, LIKE COHORTS OR PODS OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THEM, SO THAT THEY ARE SPENDING THEIR DAY WITH SAY THE SAME 12 OR 15 KIDS AND A SINGLE TEACHER AND THERE'S NOT A LOT OF KIND OF MOVING AROUND AND CROSS-POLLINATION, AND THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT GIVES THEM, YOU KNOW, LESS OF A CHANCE TO TRANSMIT TO LOTS OF PEOPLE BUT ALSO BECAUSE IF THERE IS A CASE IN, SAY, A FIRST GRADE CLASS, THEN YOU CAN BE PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT ONLY THOSE 12 OR 15 OTHER KIDS COULD HAVE BEEN EXPOSED AND YOU CAN SAY, OKAY, LET'S TAKE THOSE KIDS AND SEND THEM HOME FOR TWO WEEKS, BUT WE DON'T HAVE TO CLOSE OUR ENTIRE SCHOOL AND DISRUPT THE EDUCATION OF EVERYBODY ELSE.

Nam says WE'RE GOING TO TALK MORE ABOUT PODS IN A SECOND WITH SOME OF THE SUCCESS STORIES THAT WE'RE SEEING AROUND THE WORLD FROM OTHER COUNTRIES THAT HAVE OPENED UP SCHOOLS. BUT WHEN WE DO TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT HOW KIDS ARE NOT TRANSMITTING TO OTHER CHILDREN, BUT IN THE CLASSROOM, I KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WATCHING, TEACHERS THAT ARE WATCHING THE SHOW RIGHT NOW, AND THEY'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR OWN SAFETY. SO WHAT IS THE SCIENCE TELLING US ABOUT CHILDREN TRANSMITTING TO ADULTS?

Pam says SO WE JUST DON'T THINK THAT THEY TRANSMIT AS OFTEN, BUT THE RISK ISN'T ZERO. AGAIN, THERE SEEMS TO BE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN, YOU KNOW, YOUNGER KIDS' ABILITY TO TRANSMIT AND OLDER KIDS. IF YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL, THE SCIENCE IS STARTING TO SHOW THAT, YOU KNOW, TEENAGERS, ADOLESCENTS AND OLDER MAY BE ABLE TO TRANSMIT AS EASILY AS ADULTS. YOU KNOW, THE THINKING ABOUT REOPENING HIGH SCHOOLS SHOULD PROBABLY BE DIFFERENT THAN THE THINKING ABOUT REOPENING ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN, THE SCIENCE SUGGESTS THAT ANYBODY WHO COMES IN CONTACT WITH THEM, WHETHER THAT'S THEIR PEERS OR THEIR TEACHERS, IS PROBABLY AT A LITTLE BIT OF A LOWER RISK, MAYBE A CONSIDERABLY LOWER RISK, OF CATCHING THE VIRUS FROM A CHILD. AND FOR TEACHERS, THE RISK IS NOT ZERO, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE THEY ARE GOING TO BE INTERACTING WITH OTHER ADULTS AND ALSO BECAUSE MANY OF THEM ARE AT AN AGE WHERE THEY ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO, YOU KNOW, GETTING SERIOUSLY ILL IF THEY'RE IN THEIR 50S OR 60S OR IF THEY HAVE SOME OTHER KIND OF OVERLAY OF MEDICAL CONDITION, THEN THEY COULD BE QUITE VULNERABLE TO GETTING VERY SERIOUSLY ILL. SO TEACHERS AND OTHER STAFF IN SCHOOLS... CAFETERIA WORKERS, BUS DRIVERS, CUSTODIANS... DEFINITELY HAVE REASON TO BE WORRIED AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS SHOULD BE TAKING AS MANY PRECAUTIONS AS THEY CAN TO PROTECT THOSE WORKERS.

Nam says WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID THEN, WHAT DO YOU THINK ALL THAT MEANS ABOUT THE SAFETY OF KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL IN 6 WEEKS?

Pam says WELL, I THINK IT DEPENDS A LOT ON SORT OF TWO BIG FACTORS. ONE IS HOW HIGH IS THE CASELOAD, YOU KNOW, HOW MUCH COMMUNITY SPREAD DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR COMMUNITY? AND THAT COULD VARY BY, YOU KNOW, BY DISTRICT TO DISTRICT. IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT SCHOOLS ARE NOT ISLANDS. THEY ARE PART OF THE COMMUNITY. PEOPLE COME AND GO. SO IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF CASES IN YOUR COMMUNITY, LIKE WE DO IN MANY, MANY PLACES IN THE UNITED STATES RIGHT NOW, THEN YOU'RE STARTING AT A BIG DISADVANTAGE BECAUSE YOU'RE TAKING A BIG RISK THAT ANYBODY... CHILDREN,FÁ TEACHERS, STAFF... COULD BE EXPOSED IN SOME OTHER ENVIRONMENT IN THE COMMUNITY, BRINGING IT INTO THE SCHOOLS, AND THEN, YOU KNOW, THAT'S A VERY HIGH RISK. BUT THE OTHER THING IS, ONCE YOU ACTUALLY REOPEN SCHOOLS, THERE NEED TO BE AN AWFUL LOT OF PRECAUTIONS TAKEN THAT BASICALLY SORT OF BACK EACH OTHER UP. YOU'RE SORT OF TALKING ABOUT REDUNDANCY. IT'S LIKE WHEN THEY BUILD AIRPLANES, THEY BUILD THEM SO THAT IF ONE ENGINE FAILS, YOU KNOW, THE OTHER ONE CAN TAKE OVER. AND THAT'S PART OF THE LOGIC OF A LOT OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS AND GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOLS. YOU KNOW, TRY TO KEEP DESKS 6 FEET APART. BUT IF YOU CAN'T QUITE DO THAT, TRY TO KEEP THEM 3 FEET APART. TRY TO HAVE KIDS WEAR MASKS. THAT MAY NOT BE 100 percent SUCCESSFUL, SO KEEP THEM IN SMALL GROUPS. TRY TO MAKE SURE TEACHERS DON'T ROVE FROM CLASS TO CLASS. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLAN OF WHAT TO DO IF SOMEBODY DOES GET SICK. AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SORT OF BACKUPS IF A TEACHER IS UNCOMFORTABLE OR IS, YOU KNOW, FEELING AT RISK AND YOU NEED TO FIGURE OUT ANOTHER PLAN FOR THAT TEACHER'S RESPONSIBILITIES. SO I THINK YOU NEED TO HAVE BOTH THINGS TO REALLY BE CONFIDENT OR AT LEAST THE RISK IS NEVER GOING TO BE ZERO, UNFORTUNATELY, IN THIS ENVIRONMENT, BUT AT LEAST TO BE REASONABLY CONFIDENT THAT SCHOOLS CAN REOPEN, YOU NEED TO HAVE CONTROLLED YOUR COMMUNITY SPREAD AND YOU NEED TO HAVE GOOD GUIDELINES THAT YOU CAN BE, YOU KNOW, RELATIVELY SECURE IN AND BACKUP PLANS.

Nam says KRISTIN, I MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING THAT THIS IS A UNIQUE TIME FOR EVERYBODY. WE'RE ALL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THE BEST THING THAT WE CAN DO. AND IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO, WE HAVE... WE HAVE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT COMING LATER THIS WEEK FROM THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION. CAN YOU REMIND US WHAT SOME OF THE SCENARIOS MIGHT LOOK LIKE IF WE DO GO BACK TO SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER?

The caption changes to "Kristin Rushowy. Toronto Star. @krushowy."

Kristin says SO WHAT THE PROVINCE HAS ASKED SCHOOL BOARDS TO PLAN FOR IS THREE DIFFERENT SCENARIOS AND WHICH ONE IS PUT INTO PLACE WILL DEPEND ON WHERE WE ARE AT THE TIME WHEN SCHOOLS REOPENED. THEY HAVE ASKED SCHOOLS TO PLAN FOR FULL-TIME REOPENING, AS NORMAL, WITH ENHANCED SAFETY PROCEDURES AND LIKELY SMALLER CLASSES. THEY'VE ASKED SCHOOLS TO PLAN FOR ONLINE ONLY, SHOULD WE BE IN ANOTHER BAD SITUATION LIKE WE WERE BACK IN MARCH AND APRIL. THEY'VE ALSO ASKED US TO PLAN FOR A HYBRID MODEL WHERE KIDS WILL BE IN SCHOOL PART TIME, MAYBE ONE WEEK ON, ONE WEEK OFF, GOING IN COHORTS, HALF AND HALF, TO LIMIT SPREAD, AND THEY WOULD ALSO BE LEARNING AT HOME AS WELL.

Nam says AND SO WE'RE WAITING FOR THIS NEWS TO COME LATER ON THIS WEEK. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHICH WAY THE GOVERNMENT IS LEANING TOWARDS, WHAT SCENARIO THEY'RE LEANING TOWARDS?

Kristin says SO THE PREMIER AND THE EDUCATION MINISTER HAVE BOTH SAID SEVERAL TIMES THAT IDEALLY, THEY'D LIKE KIDS TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL FULL TIME. THIS IS SOMETHING THEY'RE HEARING FROM SCHOOL BOARDS AS WELL. THE HALTON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD, WHICH IS A LARGE URBAN BOARD JUST WEST OF TORONTO AND THE TORONTO PUBLIC BOARD ITSELF WHICH IS THE LARGEST IN THE COUNTRY, THEY BOTH SAID, LOOK, THIS HYBRID MODEL DOES NOT WORK, DOES NOT WORK FOR WORKING PARENTS. PARENTS NEED TO WORK FROM HOME OR FROM THE OFFICE AND THEY WILL HAVE A HARD TIME FINDING CHILD CARE FOR THEIR KIDS. THE HALTON BOARD SAID THE HYBRID MODEL MIGHT BE MORE DANGEROUS, LESS SAFE, BECAUSE KIDS WILL HAVE CONTACTS IF THEY'RE GOING INTO CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENTS. THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE HEARING FROM SCHOOL BOARDS. PARENTS, WHILE THEY MIGHT BE WARY OF FULL-TIME RETURN, IF THEY SEE PRECAUTIONS ARE IN PLACE, THEY FEEL A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE WITH IT AND IT CERTAINLY WORKS FOR THEM IF THEY ARE WORKING.

Nam says PAM MENTIONED COMMUNITIES AND SOME OF THE THINGS THAT I'VE BEEN HEARING FROM PEOPLE IS THAT CERTAIN PLACES IN ONTARIO HAVE VERY FEW CASES AND SOME PLACES, LIKE THE GTA, HAVE MORE. WOULD YOU SAY IT WOULD BE FAIR FOR THE PROVINCE TO CONSIDER EACH REGION DEPENDING ON THE COMMUNITY SPREAD WHEN THEY CONSIDER IF THEY'RE GOING TO OPEN SCHOOLS FULL TIME OR DO A HYBRID?

Kristin says THE PROVINCE HAS INDICATED IT'S GOING TO HAVE SORT OF ONE OVERARCHING DIRECTION FOR THE PROVINCE, WITH THE SCHOOL BOARDS ALLOWED TO SORT OF MAKE DO FOR LOCAL CIRCUMSTANCES. AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT SCHOOL BOARDS ASKED FOR THEMSELVES. THEY DID ASK FOR FLEXIBILITY DEPENDING ON THE NUMBER OF CASES. IF YOU LOOK AT UP NORTH, FOR EXAMPLE, OR EVEN KINGSTON, ONTARIO, WHICH APART FROM THE OUTBREAK AT THE NAIL SALON HAS HAD A VERY GOOD RECORD. THAT'S VERY DIFFERENT THAN TORONTO, BRAMPTON, PEEL, RIGHT? SO THE SCHOOL BOARD IS ASKING FOR FLEXIBILITY AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT THE MINISTER IS GOING TO GIVE THEM WITHIN WHATEVER FRAMEWORK THEY CHOOSE TO GO FORWARD WITH WHEN THEY ANNOUNCE IT LATER THIS WEEK.

Nam says DO YOU GET A SENSE OF WHICH... HOW THE PUBLIC IS LEANING, LIKE WHICH ONE THEY'RE LEANING TOWARDS?

Kristin says IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE CERTAINLY THE GOVERNMENT AND THE OPPOSITION, THEY'RE ALL PUSHING FOR FULL-TIME RETURN. I THINK THAT'S WHAT THE GOVERNMENT IS HEARING FROM PARENTS. I THINK IN COMMUNITIES CERTAINLY WHERE THERE'S VERY LITTLE SPREAD. IF YOU LOOK AT POLLING, MAYBE A BIT MORE OF A MIX, ANYWHERE FROM HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF PARENTS FEEL COMFORTABLE SENDING THEIR KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL. THE TORONTO PUBLIC BOARD SURVEYED ABOUT 70,000 PARENTS AND STUDENTS. I THINK ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF PARENTS FELT COMFORTABLE SENDING THEIR KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL IN THE FALL. ABOUT THREE-QUARTER OF KIDS, MIND YOU, HE FELT COMFORTABLE GOING BACK. SO THEY'RE VERY EAGER TO GO BACK TO CLASS.

Nam says WHEN PAM WAS TALKING ABOUT PPE, PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT, IF I'M ANYWHERE WITH MY KIDS, IF WE GO TO A PUBLIC WASHROOM, THE AMOUNT OF TIMES I HAVE TO REMIND THEM TO WASH THEIR HANDS, NOT TOUCH THAT, ET CETERA, ET CETERA, KRISTIN, WILL THERE BE MONEY FOR MORE CLEANING AND PPE IF WE DO GO BACK TO SCHOOL FULL TIME?

Kristin says THE GOVERNMENT HAS PUT ABOUT 4 MILLION INSOFAR. CERTAINLY THE UNIONS ARE ASKING FOR THAT. CUPE, WHICH REPRESENTS ABOUT 45,000 SUPPORT STAFF ACROSS THE PROVINCE IN SCHOOLS, THEY'VE ESTIMATED THERE WILL BE ABOUT 100, 150 MILLION FOR PPE FOR STAFF, CLEANING SUPPLIES AND THAT KIND OF THING. THE TORONTO CATHOLIC TEACHERS UNION AND THE ONTARIO CATHOLIC TEACHERS UNION ARE BOTH ASKING FOR FACE MASKS FOR STUDENTS, ALL STUDENTS. YESTERDAY THE HEAD OF THE ONTARIO ENGLISH CATHOLIC TEACHERS UNION SAID EVEN LITTLE KIDS SHOULD BE WEARING FACE MASKS, THEY HAVE TO WEAR IT WHEN THEY GO TO MALL, WHY CAN'T THEY WEAR IT IN SCHOOL. IT'S THAT ADDED LAYER OF PROTECTION FOR EVERYONE.

Nam says YOU MENTIONED THE UNIONS. I GUESS WHEN IT COMES TO TEACHERS, TEACHERS MIGHT, I GUESS, KIND OF LIKE PARENTS, YOU MIGHT BE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE AND YOU MIGHT NOT REALLY WANT TO SAY WHAT YOU REALLY THINK. WHAT SENSE ARE YOU GETTING FROM TEACHERS IF THIS DOES HAPPEN, HOW THEY ARE FEELING ABOUT THEIR SAFETY?

Kristin says WELL, THE ONE SURVEY THAT THE TORONTO DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD DID WITH STAFF AND STUDENTS, WHILE PARENTS AND STUDENTS FELT FAIRLY CONFIDENT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL, ONLY ABOUT 41 percent OF STAFF FELT COMFORTABLE GOING BACK TO SCHOOL FULL TIME. CERTAINLY WHAT WE'VE SEEN IN THE POLLING IS WHEN THINGS LIKE SPACING, PHYSICAL DISTANCING, FACE MASKS ARE INCLUDED, PEOPLE FEEL A LOT SAFER. THE CATHOLIC TEACHERS UNION AND OTHERS ARE CALLING FOR THINGS LIKE ENHANCED HAND HYGIENE, HAND-WASHING STATIONS, FACE MASKS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. CUPE IS ASKING FOR PLEXIGLAS FOR LET'S SAY SCHOOL OFFICES TO SEPARATE SECRETARIES FROM THE PUBLIC WHEN THEY COME IN TO PROVIDE THAT EXTRA LAYER OF PROTECTION AS WELL.

Nam says WE'VE BEEN TOLD IF YOU'RE INSIDE, INDOORS, WEAR A MASK. PAM, WHEN I THINK ABOUT KIDS GOING TO SCHOOL, HOW REALISTIC IS IT TO HAVE KIDS WEARING MASKS THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL DAY?

Pam says I THINK OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE FOUND THAT IT'S KIND OF HARD WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN. SOME HAVE DRAWN THE LINE WITH, SAY, FOURTH GRADE AND UNDER, NOT REQUIRING THEM TO WEAR MASKS. BUT IT REALLY DEPENDS I THINK ON HOW... YOU KNOW, PARTLY THE TONE THAT IS SET IN THE SCHOOL AND HOW COMPLIANT YOU THINK YOUR KIDS ARE. I THINK... IT SOUNDS LIKE... IT'S SOMETHING TO BE ENCOURAGED, BUT THERE OUGHT TO BE A FAIL-SAFE, THERE OUGHT TO BE BACK-UPS, ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNGER KIDS. WHAT I'M HEARING WHEN PEOPLE ARE THINKING ABOUT MASKS AND OLDER KIDS, HIGH SCHOOL KIDS, IS IT MAY BE EASIER TO GET THEM TO AGREE TO WEAR MASKS BUT IT MAY BE HARDER TO GET THEM TO AGREE TO SOCIAL DISTANCE. LITTLE KIDS MAY BE A LITTLE MORE COMPLIANT THAT WAY OR IT MAY BE A LITTLE BIT EASIER WITH KIND OF THE RHYTHM OF THE SCHOOL DAY TO GET THEM TO SORT OF SEPARATE. BUT FOR OLDER KIDS, IT MAY BE HARD. SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S GOING TO BE A MIXED BAG. THERE ARE SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN THE UNITED STATES WHERE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS HAVE BEEN TAKING POLLS AND SOME HAVE VOTED FOR MASK REQUIREMENTS AND SOME HAVE VOTED FOR NO MASK REQUIREMENTS BECAUSE THEY'RE CONCERNED THAT IT MIGHT IMPINGE ON THEIR PERSONAL FREEDOM. SO HIGH SCHOOL KIDS DEFINITELY HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT THIS. AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, PROBABLY THE BEST THAT MAYBE OUR COUNTRIES CAN DO, AND I'M NOT SURE ABOUT CANADA, IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGE MASK-WEARING BUT MAKE SURE THAT'S NOT THE ONLY THING THAT YOUR SCHOOL IS RELYING ON.

Nam says WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT WEARING MASKS FOR KIDS, FOR YOUNGER KIDS IN CLASS, WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY? BECAUSE I'M THINKING IN MY... YOU KNOW, DO THEY PUT THE MASK ON PROPERLY? DO THEY, YOU KNOW, DOES IT SPREAD GERMS MORE? WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY ABOUT THE EFFICACY OF KIDS WEARING MASKS?

Pam says WELL, SO THERE'S NO DANGER TO KIDS WEARING MASKS. THERE'S NO DANGER TO THEM OR, YOU KNOW, TO ANYONE ELSE. BUT IN TERMS OF THE EFFICACY, MASKS, PARTICULARLY WE'RE TALKING SORT OF CLOTH MASKS, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT SORT OF MEDICAL-GRADE MASKS, BUT CLOTH MASKS ARE GENERALLY MOST EFFECTIVE AT PROTECTING ANOTHER PERSON, NOT THE PERSON WEARING THE MASK, RIGHT? SO IF THE CHILD IS SICK AND THE CHILD WEARS A MASK, THAT PROTECTS THE PEOPLE AROUND THAT CHILD FROM CATCHING, YOU KNOW, THE VIRUS FROM THAT CHILD. SO YOU COULD, IF YOU SORT OF COMBINE THAT SCIENTIFIC LOGIC WITH THE GROWING EVIDENCE THAT WE DON'T THINK YOUNG CHILDREN SPREAD THE VIRUS AS MUCH AND MAY NOT GET AS ILL AND BECAUSE THEY DON'T... WE KNOW THEY DON'T GET AS ILL, BUT BECAUSE THEY DON'T DEVELOP, YOU KNOW, WHEN THEY DO GET INFECTED, THEY DON'T DEVELOP SYMPTOMS LIKE COUGHING, WHICH IS A PRIME WAY OF SPREADING THE VIRUS, THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THEY'RE LESS LIKELY, WE THINK, TO SPREAD THE VIRUS, RIGHT? SO THE GOOD NEWS THERE, WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT TRYING TO GET LITTLE CHILDREN TO WEAR MASKS CORRECTLY, IS THAT IT MAY NOT BE THAT IMPORTANT FOR THEM OR FOR THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE LESS LIKELY TO, YOU KNOW, BE CONTAGIOUS THEMSELVES AND THEY'RE LESS, YOU KNOW, LIKELY TO SORT OF CONVEY IT. SO IF THE MASK ISN'T WORKING THAT WELL ON THEM, THEN THAT'S PROBABLY, YOU KNOW, LESS OF A RISK THAN IF AN ADULT ISN'T WEARING A MASK.

Nam says KRISTIN, WE'VE BEEN HEARING LOTS OF STUDIES BEING DONE TO SHOW HOW THE CORONAVIRUS AFFECTS CHILDREN AND HOW IT'S SAFE FOR THEM TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL. WHEN I THINK OF THE SCHOOL SITUATION, KIDS ARE NOT TEACHING THEMSELVES. TEACHERS ARE TEACHING THE CHILDREN. AND WHERE IT MIGHT BE SAFE FOR THE CHILDREN, IT MIGHT NOT BE SAFE FOR THE TEACHERS. DO YOU SEE A SITUATION WHERE THE SCHOOL BOARDS ARE MAKING PLANS TO REOPEN BUT TEACHERS DON'T FEEL COMFORTABLE GOING BACK INTO THE CLASSROOM?

Kristin says WELL, AN ISSUE HAS ARISEN IN THE TORONTO CATHOLIC BOARD. TRUSTEES LAST WEEK VOTED IF SCHOOL WERE TO REOPEN FULL TIME, THEY WOULD LIKE TO REOPEN WITH REGULAR CLASS SIZES AND THE UNION IN TORONTO HAS SAID, NO, THAT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN BECAUSE WE DON'T FEEL SAFE IF THAT'S THE CASE. BECAUSE THERE ARE SOME ELEMENTARY CLASSES THAT ARE PUSHING CLOSE TO 30. CERTAINLY IN JK TO 3, CLASSES ARE GENERALLY, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEM ARE 20 STUDENTS OR LESS, FROM GRADES 4 TO 8, THEY CAN GET A BIT BIGGER. THE TEACHERS DON'T FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THAT MANY KIDS CRAMMED IN THE CLASSROOM BECAUSE THEY WANT PHYSICAL DISTANCING AND OTHER SAFETY MEASURES TO BE TAKEN.

Nam says WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

Kristin says WELL, THE TORONTO ELEMENTARY CATHOLIC TEACHERS UNION HAS SAID, IF THIS IS WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, IF THIS IS WHAT OUR BOARD HAS VOTED FOR AND THIS IS INDEED WHAT'S GOING AHEAD, THEY'RE GOING TO CHALLENGE IT. THEY SAID LEGALLY THROUGH GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES AND OTHER LEGAL CHALLENGES.

Nam says PAM, HOW CONCERNED DO YOU THINK TEACHERS SHOULD BE ABOUT GETTING BACK TO IN-PERSON TEACHING?

Pam says I THINK TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED. YOU KNOW, THEY... YOU KNOW, THEY CAN BE IN A VERY HIGH-RISK GROUP, ESPECIALLY, YOU KNOW, IF THEY'RE OLDER, AND, YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF VARIATION ACROSS THE UNITED STATES CERTAINLY IN THE QUALITY OF SCHOOL BUILDINGS, IN THE RESOURCES THAT DIFFERENT SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE, AND SO DEPENDING ON WHERE THEY TEACH, YOU KNOW, THERE'S GOING TO BE A LOT OF VARIATION, HOW CONFIDENT THEY CAN BE THAT THEIR SCHOOL BOARD HAS THE RESOURCES TO PROVIDE THEM WITH PROTECTION, TO HAVE ENOUGH SPACE TO PROVIDE SOCIAL DISTANCING, AND ALL OF THOSE SORTS OF FACTORS, TO HAVE GOOD VENTILATION, BECAUSE WE THINK THERE'S SOME EVIDENCE THAT COVID-19 CAN BE AIRBORNE, AND SO ALL THE GUIDELINES ARE RECOMMENDING GOOD VENTILATION. BUT IF YOU HAVE AN AGING SCHOOL BUILDING AND YOU'RE IN A COLD ENVIRONMENT WHERE YOU CAN'T OPEN THE WINDOWS, THEN THAT'S A REALLY HIGH BAR TO TRY TO PROVIDE GOOD VENTILATION. SO I THINK TEACHERS DEFINITELY HAVE A RIGHT TO BE CONCERNED. BUT, YOU KNOW, THIS IS A BALANCING ACT, WITH MANY DIFFERENT LEGS ON THIS STOOL. YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE A REAL IMPERATIVE TO BRING CHILDREN BACK TO SCHOOL BECAUSE, PARTICULARLY YOUNGER CHILDREN, THERE'S BEEN A HUGE COST TO THEM EDUCATIONALLY, SOCIALLY, EMOTIONALLY BY HAVING TO BE AT HOME, AND MANY CHILDREN HAVE FALLEN BEHIND AND UNFORTUNATELY THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN MOST BEHIND ARE THOSE WHOSE FAMILIES HAVE ALSO BEEN HARDEST HIT BY THE VIRUS: COMMUNITIES OF COLOUR, LOW INCOME COMMUNITIES, SO THE GAP IS JUST GETTING WIDER AND WIDER AND IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO DO EVERYTHING WE CAN AS A SOCIETY TO TRY TO BRING THOSE CHILDREN BACK TO SCHOOL, NOT ONLY FOR THE EDUCATION BUT ALSO BECAUSE SCHOOLS PROVIDE SO MUCH SUPPORT IN TERMS OF MEALS, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, YOU KNOW, THEY ARE A LIFELINE FOR FAMILIES. AND THEN THEY ARE ALSO A LIFELINE FOR PARENTS. YOU KNOW, PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN WHO WORK ARE HAVING A TERRIBLE TIME, AS KRIS WAS MENTIONING, IT'S VERY, VERY COMPLICATED TO TRY TO GO BACK TO WORK IF YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE CHILD CARE TWO DAYS A WEEK OR, YOU KNOW, OR IF YOU HAVE TO BE HOME FULL TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND TRYING TO GET THEM TO DO ONLINE SCHOOLING. SO THERE ARE A LOT OF DIFFERENT THINGS THAT NEED TO BE WEIGHED, AND EVERYBODY'S INTERESTS SHOULD BE FACTORED INASMUCH AS POSSIBLE AND I THINK EVERYBODY NEEDS TO KIND OF REALIZE THAT THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE A NO-RISK ENVIRONMENT OR A NO-COST ENVIRONMENT FOR ANYBODY FOR PROBABLY QUITE A WHILE WHEN IT COMES TO SCHOOL.

Nam says KRISTIN, I'M ALSO GETTING THE SENSE THAT SOME COMMUNITIES HAVE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL. WHEN YOU THINK OF COMMUNITIES THAT DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED INTERNET, THEY NEED TO BE IN CLASS. DO YOU NOTICE A DESIRE MORE IN THOSE COMMUNITIES TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL?

Kristin says WELL, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THE ONTARIO PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION WAS LOBBYING FOR, THAT BOARDS DO HAVE FLEXIBILITY TO ACCOUNT FOR LOCAL CIRCUMSTANCES, BECAUSE CERTAINLY, RIGHT, FOR UP NORTH, IT'S A BIT DIFFERENT. THEY MAY HAVE HAD A TOUGH TIME WITH ONLINE LEARNING. THAT SAID, THE PROVINCE HAS PROMISED TO GET HIGH-SPEED INTERNET EVERYWHERE IN THE PROVINCE I THINK BY NEXT FALL TO HELP WITH THE LEARNING. BUT CERTAINLY THAT IS AN ISSUE UP NORTH. THE OTHER ISSUE THAT'S ARISEN FOR BOARDS, AND THAT WOULD BE URBAN AND RURAL BOARDS, IS BUSING. HOW DO YOU SAFELY BUS KIDS TO SCHOOL? HOW DO YOU PHYSICAL DISTANCE ON BUSES? THIS IS ONE QUESTION THAT THE BOARDS HAVE SAID THEY ARE GOING TO GRAPPLE WITH. IT'S PROBABLY GOING TO BE THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FOR THEM TO SOLVE.

Nam says I KNOW PEOPLE ARE EAGER TO HEAR OF SUCCESS STORIES FROM OTHER COUNTRIES THAT HAVE OPENED UP SCHOOLS. DENMARK IS A COUNTRY THAT'S DONE THAT. PAM, CAN YOU BRIEFLY TELL US WHAT THEY'VE DONE AND WHY IT'S WORKED?

Pam says SURE. WELL, ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS THAT IT'S WORKED IS THEY STARTED WITH LOW COMMUNITY SPREAD. THEY GOT THEIR INFECTIONS UNDER CONTROL BEFORE THEY REOPENED SCHOOLS. THEY DID THAT PRETTY QUICKLY. THEY WERE ONLY OUT OF SCHOOL FOR ABOUT A MONTH. AND THEN WHEN THEY REOPENED, THEY REOPENED ONLY FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN AT FIRST. THEY KEPT THEM IN SMALL GROUPS. THEY HAD SOCIAL DISTANCING. THEY DID ALL THE THINGS THAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT. AND THEY WERE ABLE TO NOT ONLY KIND OF PREVENT INFECTIONS IN SCHOOLS BUT ALSO THE CASES IN THEIR COMMUNITY DID NOT RISE AS A RESULT OF SCHOOL REOPENINGS. SO THEY'RE AN EXAMPLE OF A REAL MODEL OF SUCCESS BUT ONE THAT IS HARDER TO REPLICATE IN COUNTRIES THAT, YOU KNOW, HAVE CERTAINLY THE SITUATION IN THE UNITED STATES HAS AND, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE THINGS WE CAN LEARN BUT IT'S HARD TO KIND OF PASTE ONE COUNTRY'S MODEL TO ANOTHER.

Nam says KRISTIN, HAVING HEARD WHAT PAM SAID ABOUT DENMARK, DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE DOABLE, THE PODS, IN ONTARIO?

Kristin says WELL, CERTAINLY IN QUEBEC, THAT'S WHAT THEY HAVE LOOKED AT. THEY'VE GOT PODS OF SIX STUDENTS. OTHER PROVINCES THAT HAVE ANNOUNCED REOPENING PLANS, THEY'VE TALKED ABOUT COHORTING BUT NOTHING SPECIFIC. CERTAINLY IT'S SOMETHING THAT THE TEACHERS WOULD LIKE TO SEE. THE OTHER CREATIVE SOLUTION THAT WE'VE HEARD FROM SCHOOL BOARDS, FOR EXAMPLE IN HALTON AND TORONTO, THEY SAID MAYBE WE CAN MOVE SMALLER CLASSES... WE HAVE MORE SMALLER CLASSES, HAVE THEM IN UNUSED COMMUNITY SPACE. THE HALTON BOARD WEST OF TORONTO HAS ALSO SAID, WE HAVE A LOT OF CONSERVATION AREAS AROUND US. MAYBE KIDS CAN LEARN OUTDOORS, WHICH I BELIEVE THEY DID DO IN DENMARK WITH QUITE SUCCESS. THESE ARE SOME OF THE CREATIVE SOLUTIONS THEY'RE LOOKING AT TO HELP WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING AND THINGS LIKE THAT WHEN SCHOOLS REOPEN.

The caption changes to "Producer: Meredith Martin, @MeredithMartin."

Nam says PAM AND KRISTIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HELPING US FILL IN THE BLANKS FOR THE SITUATION. WE APPRECIATE YOUR INSIGHT.

Both guests say THANK YOU.

Nam says THANKS SO MUCH.

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